Heart Disease Doesn’t Just Impact Men
Many of us think of heart disease as a disease that kills primarily men. In a 2000 Yale University study, 250,000 women died from heart disease, compared to 40,000 who died from breast cancer. This is a huge difference. The study also showed that in women who have a heart attack before the age of 75, the risk of the chance of mortality is much higher in comparison to their male counterparts. Many times women do not realize that they have heart disease due to the fact that their symptoms may present differently than the “typical heart attack” symptoms of crushing chest pressure with pain radiating down the arm. Women may experience a “gastritis” or “reflux” feeling, along with a headache or neck pain.
Women usually develop heart disease later than men due to the protective effects that estrogen have against heart disease. When a woman reaches menopause age, she no longer produces estrogen, which then causes a dramatic increase in her risk for heart disease. This is one reason why women should hold onto their reproductive organs for as long as they can and not undergo unnecessary hysterectomies when at all possible. Many women are now turning to natural hormone replacement therapy at the time of menopause, so this has helped decrease their risk for heart disease.
Both men and women should heed the following advice in order to prevent the onset of heart disease in the first place:
- Eat foods that encourage natural blood thinning. The thinner the blood the easier it is going to be for the heart to pump blood throughout the whole body. The scientific term for “thickening of the blood” is called coagulopathy. Obviously, we want to avoid things that accelerate coagulopathy and encourage things that promote a natural blood thinning. Here are some good blood-thinning foods to include in your diet: Vegetables such as avocados, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, onions, garlic, kelp, and kale. Fats such as flax seed oil, fish oils, walnut oil, and Fish: cold water ocean fish. Salmon, bluefish, Arctic char, mackerel, and swordfish rate the highest in omega-3 fatty acids, which are protective and provide natural blood thinning.
- Eliminate foods that contribute to blood thickening. Any food that contains hydrogenated fats or oils will contribute to the thickening of the blood. Such foods include:
- Packaged products: cookies, crackers, snack itemsIce creams and frozen desserts
- Fried foods: French fries, fried vegetables, fried chicken, chips
- Vegetable oils such as corn oil, safflower oil, and vegetable oil
- Deli foods, including mayonnaise-based products.
- Lose excess weight. When someone has excessive fat pounds, the heart has to pump a lot harder. Fat cells have a poor blood supply and quite frankly fat just puts a great strain on a lot of body organs. Imagine carrying around a 20 pound weight all day. Even after an hour or two you would be exhausted, but yet the heart in an overweight person has to do that every minute for decades. It is no wonder that people who are overweight are at great risk for the damaging effects of high blood pressure and heart disease. To lose weight the following are basic guidelines:
- Exercise Daily
- Try Heart Rate Monitoring Training
- Decrease portion sizes
- Supplement as needed to support your diet (Discuss with Dr. Sherwood & Dr. Murphy.)
- Reduce stress level. Let’s be honest, stress in any form raises blood sugar levels, which in turn, is stored as excess fat in your organs and arteries. Sometimes stress is due to a bad relationship or job, but stress can occur in the body from a food or chemical allergy. For someone with blood pressure problems, tests can be done for heavy metal toxicity and food/chemical sensitivities, to see if these are inducing a stress reaction in the body. Also testing for magnesium, potassium and other mineral levels can help see if a person is being more affected by some sensitivity or toxicity due to a mineral deficiency. (We can refer you to a more holistically oriented physician for testing.) The treatment for stress-induced hypertension is to eliminate the stress. If it is a toxic relationship, the bottom line is you need to work on it or eliminate it. (If not now, when?) If it is a job, proactively try and get the job stress changed. It may mean switching jobs to potentially save your health! If it is from a food or chemical, eliminate exposure to these items. Discuss any vitamin/mineral supplementation question with Dr. Sherwood & Dr. Murphy. For many, stress reduction can be hastened by doing spiritual reading, praying, exercise and activities such as yoga.
- Have regular bowel movements: A few years back, researchers at Tufts University in Boston published a very non-surprising report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Basically the report reaffirmed what many of us “alternative” docs had known for years. If you have multiple bowel movements per day you will be a lot healthier! In this particular study the emphasis was placed on women eating a high fiber diet to reduce their risk for heart attack. Having regular bowel movements (BM’s) is beneficial for so many reasons:
- Biology gave us BM’s so that our bodies can eliminate toxins. If these toxins are not eliminated, increases in risks for heart disease, cancer, chronic disorders, and autoimmune disorders may occur because these toxins are oxidants that cause disease!
- Having regular bowel movements makes you healthier in ways not only pointed out above, but also shows that your digestion and absorption of foods and nutrients are in proper sync. Better digestion means healthier you! A four-year old will move his/her bowels after each meal. Do you? The colon’s main function is the elimination of body waste. When the colon is sluggish, body wastes accumulate and constipation results. If you are having less than two bowel movements/day you are constipated. Talk with Dr. Sherwood about the relationship between a subluxated spine and sluggish bowels and what natural solutions are available.
- Take your vitamins! Every one needs to take a good multi vitamin. We just don’t get enough from our food. These are some additional vitamins that you can take that will help keep your blood thin, protect against oxidation, and strengthen the heart: Vitamin C with Bioflavinoids, Lysine, Garlic, Vitamin E (Natural mixed tocopherols), Enzymes, and Omega 3 fatty acids.
- Have lab work done regularly to check your risk factors: Every woman over the age of 50, or better yet, when you turn 40, should check the following labs: hormone levels, blood sugar levels, homocysteine levels, insulin resistance, coronary artery calcifications, heavy metals, lipid peroxides, hypertension, fibrinogen, percent body fat, cholesterol/HDL and Triglyceride/HDL ratios, as well as nutritional factors, such as waist/hip ratio, weight/height ratio and percent body fat. I recommend that patients over the age of 50 receive a fast CT scan of the heart to check for calcifications.
- Decrease your carbohydrate load (Eliminate Syndrome X) Women (and men) who eat too many carbohydrates are at risk for developing hyperinsulinemia and ultimately Syndrome X. When a person eats too many carbohydrates, the body makes insulin to bring the blood sugars down. If this continues for decades, eventually the cells no longer respond to the effects of insulin. The over-consumption of carbohydrates leads to storage of fat in the body in the form of triglycerides and cholesterol. All of these high carbohydrate, low-fat foods are not necessarily good for you! In Syndrome X, the person has hyperinsulinemia, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and often-resultant hypertension and arteriosclerosis (plaque formation). Treatment for Syndrome X includes decreasing carbohydrate consumption and getting metabolic typing done to determine the best diet for your body type.
- Avoid cigarettes smoke. This is a rather obvious thing to do, however, it is not always that easy to do. Cigarette smoking is highly addictive. Unfortunately, cigarette smoking among the young female population is on the rise. Do yourself a favor and don’t start. If you have already started, find a way to stop. Cigarette smoking constricts your blood vessels, weakens your heart, damages your lungs, and increases your risk of heart disease.
- Exercise more I cannot emphasize this enough. Exercise does not mean that you walked from the grocery store to your car or that you walked out to get the paper at the mailbox. Everyone, especially women, need to make the time to start exercising. Women need to be especially concerned about weight-bearing exercise in addition to aerobic exercise. We need to be doing exercise at least one to two times per week for strengthening, such as weight lifting. In addition, we need to do a sustained exercise for at least 20 minutes three times per week when we reach at least 85% of our maximum heart rate. Most people are not doing this. Go to your local sporting goods store and buy a heart rate monitor and start from there! There are many online walk programs that can get you motivated as you track your daily steps.
To Your Health,
~ Dr. Kathleen Sherwood