Frequently Asked Questions about Heart Health

Frequently Asked Questions about Heart Health

Did you know that a life is taken by heart disease every seven minutes in Canada? 

February is Heart and Stroke Awareness month. And for millions of Canadians, it is a great time to begin a new, heart-healthy lifestyle to help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Even if you don’t currently have any heart issues, heart health is important for everyone. That is why I’ve assembled some answers to a variety of frequently asked questions about heart disease—learning about your heart health risks and making changes could save your life.

Can smoking increase my risk of heart disease?

Smoking is not only a serious risk for heart disease, but also causes a host of major health issues like stroke and numerous cancers. Even “light” or “mild” cigarettes or occasional smoking can significantly up your risk factors for heart disease. Yes, quitting can be very difficult, but in addition to medications, nicotine gum or skin patches, and pure willpower, there are several healthy alternative techniques to helping people kick the habit, including hypnosis, acupuncture, and meditation.

Is heart disease genetic?

Heart disease can run in the family. But there is no need to panic (or throw in the towel). Cardiac illness is largely preventable, regardless of your family history. The key to a healthy heart is managing the risk factors. Curbing your stress, regularly exercising, quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol, and eating a healthy diet are just some of the many things you can do to nip hereditary hazards in the bud. 

How bad is stress for my heart?

Stress, in many cases, can increase your risk of heart disease. Chronic high levels of cortisol and adrenaline can constrict your arteries and increase blood pressure, potentially leading to angina (chest pain) or even a heart attack. Practicing some de-stressing activities, such as yoga, meditation, or visualization techniques will help you better cope with stress.

Can being overweight contribute to heart disease?

Being overweight can increase your chances of cardiovascular disease in a variety of ways. Those extra pounds can lead to high blood pressure and diabetes. What’s more, overweight people normally have lower levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol, which is widely accepted as a major risk factor. Cutting back on processed foods, eating more fruits and vegetables, and exercising for at least 30 minutes three times a week will help lose weight, as well as have a positive impact on your heart.

Can any of my medications increase my risk of heart disease?

A large number of people are taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—including over-the-counter ibuprofen and naproxen—to help manage their pain. While, in 2005, the FDA had already warned that NSAIDs increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, an expert review panel recently looked at new studies, and further strengthened that warning. 

Is there a supplement I can take for heart health?

There are many heart healthy supplements. One of those is Panax ginseng, one of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) most valuable herbs, used for centuries to treat of wide range of health issues. Containing compounds known as ginsenosides, this wonder herb acts as an adaptogen, promoting health and prolonging life. Even the name Panax means “all-healing.”

Importantly, Panax Ginseng has been shown to support heart health through a variety of means. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities can help prevent heart cell damage. Studies have also demonstrated its ability to improve blood circulation, help protect the heart from stress, and support healthy cholesterol levels. 

Some people have warned that ginseng can raise blood pressure, but research has shown that it only does so if the starting blood pressure is too low. Additionally, Panax ginseng, has anti-hypertensive effects—i.e. it lowers high blood pressure—helping prevent heart failure. 

In TCM, the heart is considered the “King” organ, recognizing its supreme importance to our survival. Time to make sure that you are treating your “King” kindly by reducing as many of your health risks as possible and taking some preventative measures. Long live your heart!





Dr. Melissa Carr is a registered Dr. of Traditional Chinese Medicine, caring for patients in an integrative medicine clinic in Vancouver.