Don’t Ignore the Statistics
When it comes to cardiovascular health, women need a wake up call! Heart disease is often considered a man’s diagnosis. However, according the National Institute for Health, heart disease is actually the No. 1 killer of both men and women in America today.
A staggering 1 in 4 women die from heart disease, whereas 1 in 30 women die from breast cancer.
The U.S. Department of Health reports that nearly two-thirds of American women who die suddenly of a heart attack had no prior symptoms. Yes, that should be shocking! Yet, this is a preventable disease.
Why Are These Numbers So High?
Likely it is a combination of stress, the Standard American Diet (also known as S.A.D.), lack of exercise, smoking, and other environmental toxins and lifestyle choices that have become a common way of life for many people.
What Can You Do to Stay Healthy and Heart Happy?
Think preventative! Or, if you have already been diagnosed with having heart disease or being at risk of heart disease, then consider making efforts to bring your body back into balance. This means taking the time to get to know your body, and then doing what you need to do to thrive!
Managing Heart Health – Where to Start?
Keeping an eye on your cholesterol is key. It’s all about the ratio. We have all heard that high cholesterol is bad. Many in the healthcare field, however, believe that “high” is relative, and what is equally important as total cholesterol is the ratio of HDL (“good” cholesterol) to LDL (“bad” cholesterol). This is not to say that you should throw your total cholesterol number out the window, but rather, educate yourself on the importance of an appropriate total cholesterol, as well as what the ratios of HDL and LDL mean.
Mary Enig, PhD and author of the book Know Your Fats, has spent her life’s work studying the importance of fats and their role in good health. She states that “blood cholesterol levels between 200 and 240 mg/dl are normal … and in fact they have been shown to be associated with longevity.” Total cholesterol is determined by combining HDL and LDL, along with other markers like triglycerides. To obtain a truly accurate evaluation, we must examine the ratios within those numbers.
What Do Healthy Cholesterol Levels Look Like?
- HDL:LDL ratio of 4 or less. This ratio is determined by dividing HDL into LDL. For example, if a person’s HDL is 60 and their LDL is 150, their ratio would be 2.5. Because their ratio is less than 4, many would consider this to be a healthy.
- HDL (good) cholesterol: at least 40
- LDL (bad) cholesterol: below 100 (slightly more may be alright if HDL is high)
- Triglycerides: below 150
- Total cholesterol: below 240. Remember, it is important to make sure HDL is high and that LDL is low.
The Inflammation Factor
There are many factors that play into high cholesterol, one of the key factors being inflammation within the body. Inflammation can occur for a number of reasons, some of the more common being:
- Oxidative stress within the body. This means you have more free radicals (inflammation promoting atoms which damage cells) in your body than you do antioxidants to quench them.
- Poor diet high in trans or damaged fats. Examples of damaged fats include fried foods, highly processed fats like partially hydrogenated oils, and fats that have been oxidized by heat or light.
- Inadequate omega-3 fats.
- Exposure to inflammatory toxins. These may include everyday substances from products like cleaning supplies, pesticides from conventionally grown foods, lotions and shampoo products.
- Elevated homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid that is produced in the body during the process of methionine metabolism. It has been shown that elevated homocysteine levels are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, likely because homocysteine has an inflammatory effect on the arteries. This promotes the oxidation of LDL, making it more likely for plaque to be laid down in the arteries. The metabolization of homocysteine requires abundant B Vitamins, which help to quickly break down and move homocysteine through and out of the body. Supplementing with B Vitamins is an excellent way to support healthy homocysteine levels.
- Elevated C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a blood test which measures a special type of protein in the blood that is present during times of inflammation. It is still possible to have inflammation in the body, even with a low CRP test result. A high CRP test result, however, is a good indication that there is either acute or chronic inflammation in the body that needs to be addressed.
Maintaining a healthy body weight really does matter.
- Work on establishing and maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index, or BMI. BMI is a basic calculation of weight and height, and is a relatively reliable indicator of body fat levels. You can calculate your BMI HERE. There is a direct correlation between excess body weight and increased risk for cardiovascular disease, so if you suspect you may be at risk, do something about it!
- Become familiar with your waist to hip ratio. Women should have a waist to hip ratio of about 0.80, and men about 1.0. If excess fat is stored in the waist (belly) area, there is a higher associated risk of cardiovascular disease. You can evaluate your waist to hip HERE.
Are You at Risk?
The most common risk factors include:
- Being overweight
- Eating a nutrient poor diet
- Lack of exercise
- Smoking cigarettes
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic Syndrome. Risks for metabolic syndrome include:
– High fasting glucose levels
– High (poor ratio) cholesterol
– High blood pressure
– Being overweight, especially in the abdomen
Supplements that Support Heart Health*
Providing your body with the extra support it needs can go a long way in keeping your heart happy.
Cardiovascular Health Support
Cholesterol Balance Support
Estrogens play a complex role in non-reproductive tissues including the brain and cardiovascular system. The risk of stroke and heart disease is increased dramatically when a person is estrogen dominant. Water logging of the cells and an increase in inter cellular sodium, which predispose a person to high blood pressure or hypertension, frequently occur with estrogen dominance. Balance is key.
DIM promotes beneficial estrogen metabolism and healthy hormonal balance in an an easily absorbable cruciferous vegetable compound shown to be highly effective for helping to manage estrogen dominance and related conditions.
Fuel Your Body with Antioxidants
Eat for Health
A healthy diet goes a long way to longevity. Choose an array of organic, hormone-free and antibiotic-free whole foods.
Portion size is important if you are trying not to overeat. Eat at regular intervals throughout the day to keep blood sugar regulated and dietary stress at a minimum.
Try to include:
- Up to 7 servings of delicious garden vegetables, especially leafy greens.
- Two servings of juicy fresh fruits.
- Meats, poultry and fish without fillers and chemicals. A serving size is about the size of the palm of your hand and the thickness of a deck of cards.
- Nuts and seeds, healthy oils, avocados and olives in moderation. Be sure you are getting adequate fiber (at least 30 g/day), as fiber has been shown to lower LDL by helping to escort it out of the body.
Stress is a major concern when it comes to hypertension and cardiovascular health. Keep those stress hormones in check and that blood pressure down by taking time to relax, meditate, walk, take a bath, or do whatever it is you do that relaxes you. Even if it is only for 5-10 minutes per day, it makes a difference. Supporting adrenal health can also help your body to manage stress better.
Minimize Invisible Stress Factors
Electromagnetic stress from things like cell phones, computers, and other electronic devices also contribute to our “total load,” or the total amount of stress that our body is required to deal with. Keeping EMF’s at bay while using your favorite electronic tools can make a difference in your health.
Keep That Body Moving
Moderate exercise 3-4 times per week for at least 30 minutes is essential to support circulation, vitality, and heart health. Consider exploring the outdoors, getting to the gym, or even just sweating it out at home. Swim, run, bike, dance or do whatever keeps your heart pumping. Add in some weight training a couple of days a week and treat your muscles to some stretching or yoga and you’ll have a recipe for a healthy metabolism and a happy, strong heart.
We sometimes forget that our heart is working day in and day out to keep us moving. It is easy for women to overlook cardiovascular health, especially with so much emphasis being put on so many other health issues today. Recent statistics on women and cardiovascular health, however, are showing that our hearts are in need some extra love! So consider taking the time to give your heart the support it deserves, it will surely appreciate the extra TLC.