Understanding Cardiovascular & Heart Health

cvd-1-photoMatt Koontz, Certified Herbalist

Cardiovascular issues like high blood pressure, arterial plaque, blood clots, heart attacks, and stroke are extremely common and have become the leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, they’re the leading cause of death worldwide. In 2012, over 18.3 million people died due to cardiovascular conditions and in 2015 at least 614,000 United States residents died of heart disease (Center for Disease Control, 2016; World Health Organization, 2014). The tragedy lies not only in the number of people affected by Cardiovascular Disease but with the fact that this condition is typically driven by controllable diet and lifestyle factors. To simplify the factors that cause cardiovascular issues, cardiologist Stephen Sinatra has outlined three driving factors of heart disease: oxidation reactions, systemic inflammation, and chronic immune activation. These three factors provide insight into how to calculate one’s risk of cardiovascular disease and how to reduce that risk.

Oxidation, Inflammation, and Immune Activity play a role in most chronic cardiovascular health issues. Oxidation is often the driver of vascular damage and cholesterol “priming.” When cholesterol is “primed,” it becomes “sticky” and starts plaque buildup in the arteries. If the body is chronically inflamed the plaque continues to grow. A major hidden cause of chronic inflammation: eating grain-fed animals. And although the body’s self-made antioxidants can handle a certain amount of oxidative stress, excessive oxidation from things like cigarette smoking and poor quality fats can be overwhelming. Add in immune activation from chronic allergen exposure and the oxidation and inflammation are further perpetuated to the point that cardiovascular problems develop. Luckily there are simple steps to begin correcting oxidative stress, inflammation, and immune activation, starting first with inflammation control and reducing oxidative stress.

In addition to lifestyle and diet evaluations, a doctor’s tests can provide more solid risk evaluations. The old standard when calculating one’s risk of cardiovascular disease has relied on measuring total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. These may be a good place to start, however the new set of blood tests, including hsCRP, homocysteine, and cholesterol particles, can help a doctor better evaluate your risk. These new tests focus more on signs and sources of inflammation, genetic predispositions, and cholesterol ratios. A solid risk evaluation may spark your motivation to make effective changes.

Find out what the major sources of oxidation are, why most people are so inflamed, and the reasons for chronic immune activation during the Understanding Cardiovascular & Heart Health class on Tuesday, January 24th at 6pm. A variety of conditions will be covered including atherosclerosis, thrombosis, embolisms, hypertension, heart attacks, stroke, varicose veins, and congestive heart failure, and you’ll get a list of the useful tests your doctor can order for evaluating cardiovascular health risks.

Watch for the future blogs/classes in the cardiovascular health series: Self Care for Cardiovascular Health as well as Complementing your Conventional Cardiovascular Healthcare.


Bowden, Jonny Ph.D., and Stephen Sinatra, M.D.. The Great Cholesterol Myth. Fair Winds Press, 2012.

“Leading Causes of Death.” Center for Disease Control, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm. Accessed 27 April, 2016.

“The Top 10 Causes of Death.” World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/. Accessed May, 2014.