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Heart disease remains the leading killer for both men and women in the U.S.and is largely preventable if caught and treated early. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) excel at preventing and treating cardiovascular disease because they focus on identifying the underlying causes of disease and empowering patients to make enduring lifestyle changes to restore and maintain health. Root causes of heart disease often show up as warning signs in other body systems. A study investigating the effects of lifestyle changes in patients with atherosclerosis (the buildup of fatty, cholesterol-rich plaque in the arteries) found that after only one year of following lifestyle recommendations, about 80 percent of participants were able to bring about plaque regression and avoid surgery without the use of lipid-lowering agents. Key focuses for prevention and treatment While treatment approaches are individualized to each patient, here are six key focuses for how naturopathic doctors aim to prevent and treat heart disease: Comprehensive intake to identify risk factors and underlying causes Targeted labs for a clear picture of what’s happening inside your body Manage vital signs and symptoms with medications as needed Optimize gastrointestinal function Address endothelial dysfunction Motivate physical activity Comprehensive intake to identify risk factors and underlying causes Root causes of heart disease often show up as warning signs in other body systems, and many times they are the result of chronic inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can arise from poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, stress, autoimmune disease, food allergies, and many other sources. Inside arteries, inflammation helps kick off atherosclerosis, which narrows the arteries and increases the risk they’ll become blocked. This can lead to heart attacks and certain types of strokes. Naturopathic doctors spend between one and two hours with patients in an initial appointment, and a good portion of this time is dedicated to identifying sources of inflammation. Trained to be “inflammation hunters,” NDs perform a methodical review of your major bodily systems (skin, digestion, joints, respiratory, etc.). They will also ask detailed questions about your diet and physical activity, and discuss your main stressors and coping strategies. NDs will also ask detailed questions about your diet and physical activity, and discuss the main stressors in your life and coping strategies. Naturopathic doctors look carefully for conditions such as insomnia, fatigue, and depression because they are all serious risks for both heart disease and heart attack. These conditions deplete vital neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, that are essential for good endothelial (blood vessel) health. Your doctor will individualize treatment with an emphasis on natural agents, such as clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, and counseling. Naturopathic doctors avoid the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) if possible. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen have been associated with heart attacks and heart failure.