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Latest Edit: Iva Lloyd, ND 2017-05-05 (EDT)

Atherosclerosis, or coronary artery disease, is a slowly progressive peripheral artery disease which involves the buildup of fatty deposits in the innermost lining of large and medium-sized arterties. The fatty deposits are referred to as plaque which is composed on primarily cholesterol and calcium. Atherosclerosis is largely a disease of diet and lifestyle and contributes to a large number of heart attack and stroke deaths in North America.[1]


Causes Dietary Factors, Smoking, Stress, Lack of Movement, Infections
See Also Cardiovascular Conditions, Arteriosclerosis, Hypertension, Obesity, Diabetes
Books Books on Cardiovascular Conditions
Articles Articles on Cardiovascular Conditions

Naturopathic Assessment

Article Does Cholesterol Drive Coronary Atherosclerosis? , IHP ; 2011 October

Assessing for the presence of atherosclerosis is common in those over the age of 40 and for anyone that is of increased risk.

Causal Factors

In order to stimulate the innate ability of the body to heal the causes of disease must be identified and addressed. With atherosclerosis the causes are variable and include lifestyle and environmental factors. A detailed assessment is required to determine which factors are contributing to atherosclerosis.


Check out this book The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book: Protect Yourself and Your Family From Heart Disease, Arthritis, Diabetes, Allergies - and More
Article Does Cholesterol Drive Coronary Atherosclerosis?, IHP; October 2011
Article New, emerging and controversial risk factors for atherosclerotic vascular diseases, IHP, Feb/March 2009
  • A diet high in animal protein, dairy, cholesterol, fat and sugar has been correlated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis. A high calorie diet and one that is low in dietary fibre is also a factor.[2]
  • High glycemic index food and diabetes result in high levels of blood glucose, which raises the core body temperature. The ingestion of hyperosmolal salt, glucose, and amino acids singularly or synergistically raise the core body temperature, forcing abdominal aorta to form an insulation wall of fatty material causing atherosclerotic plaques. The ingestion of water decreases the formation of plaques.[3]
  • Vitamin D deficiency could be an independent risk factor for the development of peripheral artery disease.[4]
  • Prolonged sub-clinical vitamin K deficiency is a risk factor for osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, and cancer.[5]
  • Lack of physical activity increases one's risk. Regular exercise offers protection against all-cause mortality, primarily by protection against atherosclerosis and insulin resistance and there is evidence that physical training is effective as a treatment in patients with chronic heart diseases and type 2 diabetes.[6]
  • Excess physical activity, especially extreme weight lifting can contribute to atherosclerosis.


  • Pscyholigolical factors contribute significantly to the pathogenesis and expression of coronary artery disease. The psychological factors that have the greatest impact include: depression, anxiety, personal factors and character traits, social isolation and chronic life stress[7]
  • A "Type A" personality may increase ones exposure to potential triggers, rather than materially affecting the process of atherosclerosis,[8] mind you, there is some research that indicates that Type A personality, in an of itself, is a risk factor for atherosclerosis.[9]


  • Smoking is one of the most important risk factors for coronary artery disease.[1]
  • Smoking increases internal body heat, which contributes to the development of atherosclerosis.[3]
  • Smoking increases the risk of high cholesterol as it impairs endothelial function and is associated with increased levels of LDL.[10]


  • Epidemiological evidence shows that patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) have higher titres of anti-Chlamydia pneumoniae antibodies. Chlamydia can provide artherosclerotic lesion development and progression. Chronic infection raises triglycerides and lowers HDL levels in both heart disease and non-symptomatic individuals. Chronic chlamydia infections are significantly more common in smokers than in non-smokers. [11]
  • There are now a large number of different infectious agents that have been linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. These include: Chlamydia pneumoniae, Porphyromonas gingivalis, Helicobacter pylori , influenza A virus, hepatitis C virus, cytomegalovirus, and human immunodeficiency virus.[12]
  • Chronic peridontal disease has been found in many epidemilogical studies to correlate with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Medical Interventions

  • Prescription Medications
  • Although the data is conflicting, there is a concern that birth control pills increase the risk of atherosclerosis.[13]
  • Medical Treatments
  • Vasectomy produces anatomic, hormonal and immunologic changes and, although not substantiated by clinical studies, has been reputed to be associated with atherosclerosis, prostate cancer, testicular cancer and urolithiasis.[14]


  • Age
  • Aging brings about degenerative arterial changes such as dilation, tortuosity, thickening and loss of elasticity.[2]

Diagnostic Testing

Atherosclerosis diagram.jpg

Related Symptoms and Conditions


Article Tracking Plaque - Get With It!, NDNR; 2012 October

The presence of fatty deposits in the artery walls leads to an important loss of arterial elasticity and narrowing of the artery. This constriction to smooth blood-flow deprives vital organs or their blood supply. Atherosclerotic plaques are surrounded by a fibrous cap. Artherosclerosis is an inflammatory process. Chronic low-grade inflammation triggers the fibrous cap to rupture, which in turn causes a clot to form in the arteries that supply the heart. The actual symptoms and signs depend on the specific arteries involved and the degree of obstruction or blockage.[1], [24]

Risks of Atherosclerosis includes:

Naturopathic Treatment

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. Atherosclerosis is typically a chronic disease. The therapeutic objectives of atherosclerosis are to address underlying blood lipids and cholesterol, improve circulation and to reduce oxidative stress.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.


Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • Physical exercise is a useful weapon against local vascular and systemic inflammation in atherosclerosis.[31]
  • Regular exercise is beneficial, on its own and as part of dietary treatment, in the treatment of cholesterol.[32], [33]
  • Aerobic fitness is a beneficial treatment for atherosclerosis, especially if asymptomatic.[34]
  • Aerobic exercise may show more benefit in those not on statins.[35]
  • Yoga lifestyle intervention retards progression and increases regression of coronary atherosclerosis in patients with severe coronary artery disease. It also improves symptomatic status, functional class and risk factor profile.[36]

Naturopathic Therapies

The prescribing of naturopathic therapies requires the guidance of a naturopathic doctor as it depends on a number of factors including the causal factors, a person's age, prescription medications, other conditions and symptoms and overall health. It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor prior to taking any natural therapies.

Naturopathic Therapies for atherosclerosis include:

  • Homeopathy can be helpful in the treatment of atherosclerosis and high cholesterol.
  • Differentials to consider for constitutional treatment includes general conditions such as; stagnation of qi, blood or plegm.[41]
  • Acupuncture points to consider include; PC6, PC4, UB15, CV17, LI11, ST, UB16, UB14.[41]
  • If weight control is part of the case consider differentials such as; excess constitutions, qi and blood stagnation, phlegm, and phlegm damp. Consider acupuncture points such as; CV12, CV6, ST25, HT7, ST34, SP4, PC7, CV4.[41]
  • With high cholesterol or hypercholesterolemia consider differentials such as; phlegm and blood stagnation, blood stagnation. Consider acupuncture such as; SP9, SP10, TW5, ST36, ST40, PC7, PC8, TW10, LI9, LI10, LR7, SP9, GB34, Ashi around PC3/4.[41]
  • Constitutional hydrotherapy can be beneficial in the treatment of peripheral vascular diseases.[42]


Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND [1]

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