Womens-Heart_cover image

Wake Up, Ladies!!!

    Heart disease is The #1 Killer Of American Women. Every year, more than 400,000 of us die because of cardiovascular disease. More than 200,000 of those deaths are from heart attacks – five times as many deaths as breast cancer. In fact, heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined..

    Through the AHA’s “Go Red For Women” campaign, women’s awareness of heart disease has increased dramatically.1

However, nearly half of us still don’t believe we will ever suffer a heart attack – though about 1:4 of us will. Shocking, isn’t it!?

The term cardiovascular disease (CVD) covers conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels, including coronary heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, congenital heart defects, and peripheral artery disease.

     Although heart attacks are more likely after menopause, they are becoming increasingly common among young women. The roots of the disease start in childhood or adolescence and develop over a lifetime.

Long term abuses include an unhealthy diet, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and insufficient exercise.

These plus other lifestyle and psychological stressors slowly accumulate, leading to deterioration of the cardiovascular system.

Women of all ages must learn to think in terms of heart disease prevention.

 

 

Womens-Heart_cover image

TOPIC: HEART DISEASE & WOMEN

Yoga helps our hearts. A definitive Japanese study shows that the flexibility of our bodies correlates with the flexibility of our arteries. In middle-aged and older people, better flexibility was associated with less arterial stiffening. It is exciting to see how modern science is confirming yogic knowledge. Soram Khalsa, MD Huffington Post

Wake Up, Ladies!!!

Heart disease is The #1 Killer Of American Women. Every year, more than 400,000 of us die because of cardiovascular disease. More than 200,000 of those deaths are from heart attacks – five times as many deaths as breast cancer. In fact, heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined..

Through the AHA’s “Go Red For Women” campaign, women’s awareness of heart disease has increased dramatically.1 However, nearly half of us still don’t believe we will ever suffer a heart attack – though about 1:4 of us will. Shocking, isn’t it!? 

The term cardiovascular disease (CVD) covers conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels, including coronary heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, congenital heart defects, and peripheral artery disease.

Although heart attacks are more likely after menopause, they are becoming increasingly common among young women. The roots of the disease start in childhood or adolescence and develop over a lifetime. 

Long term abuses include an unhealthy diet, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and insufficient exercise. These plus other lifestyle and psychological stressors slowly accumulate, leading to deterioration of the cardiovascular system.

Women of all ages must learn to think in terms of heart disease prevention.

Vive La Difference!

Surprise! Surprise! Women are not small men with reproductive differences and inconvenient plumbing! 

There are distinct differences between women’s and men’s bones, brains, skin, saliva, – and hearts. In general, a woman’s heart is only two-thirds the size of a man’s, plus women have smaller coronary arteries. Women’s heart rates are higher than men’s, even during sleep. Structural differences in the mitral valve of the heart (which separates the left atrium from the left ventricle) may explain why mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is more common in women.

Heart disease usually appears 10-15 years later in women than in men. Once considered due to the protective effects of estrogen, the reason for this is no longer clear. However diabetes appears to predispose women to CVD more than men. In addition, reports that moderate alcohol consumption can protect against heart disease are more relevant to men. This is because alcohol in women may increase the risk of breast cancer. And, finally, studies show that heart attacks are more likely to be fatal for women than for men. A major reason for this is that, unknown to most women, a woman’s heart attack symptoms can be very different from a man’s.

A Woman’s Place Is – In The Know

Seen over and over in movies and on TV, the well-known portrayal of heart attack as excruciating chest pain is only
typical for men. Women may have chest pains on and off for years before they have a heart attack. Even if a woman is concerned enough to consult her physician, she may not be taken seriously. An article in Medical News Today reported heart disease as one of three conditions underdiagnosed in women.2

Approximately 35 percent of heart attacks in women go unnoticed or unreported. Further, women suffering a heart attack wait much longer than men to call emergency medical services and face significantly longer delays getting to a hospital equipped to care for them. In addition, many women say their physicians never talk to them about coronary risk and sometimes don’t even recognize the symptoms, mistaking them instead for signs of panic disorder, stress, and even hypochondria. It follows that heart attacks in women are more often fatal.

Some 64 percent of women who die suddenly of heart disease had never reported any symptoms. Perhaps more disturbing, women who live through a heart attack are 55% less likely to participate in cardiac rehabilitation programs than men. One of the reasons given is the lack of referral by their treating physician  It is very important that we women become educated to recognize our unique symptoms. (Read sidebar, “Women’s Heart Attack Symptoms”.)

Risky Business

Awoman’s risk for heart disease changes through time. In general, however, risk factors are classified as those a woman cannot change, those she can, and a few that fall in between. Oral contraceptive use, pregnancy, having had both ovaries removed, and premature menopause are considered “tweenies”. Totally beyond control are age, height, and family history. However, by understanding these, adaptations can be made in the individual woman’s heart health program.

Risk increases with age. Between the ages of 45-64, one in 10 women has some form of CVD. After 65, that jumps to one in four. After age 75, even women who don’t have CVD are prone to congestive heart failure caused by the heart’s impaired ability to relax.

Regarding family history, women are at a genetic disadvantage if their father or brother had CVD before 55 or their mother or sister before 65. (When parents who died young also smoked, genetics may not be implicated.) As for height, women taller than 5 feet 6 inches are 27 percent less likely to develop CVD than those shorter than 5 feet 2 inches.

Risk factors which can be controlled include… smoking, alcohol intake, obesity, high blood pressure (HBP), diabetes, blood lipid profile, lack of exercise, stress and depression.3 Also included are a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 29 or greater (body composition is 29 or more percent fat) and waist to hip ratio  greater than 0.8 for middle-aged women. (For the latter, divide your hip measurement into that of your waist.)

Of all controllable risks, smoking is the greatest predictor of CVD. In fact, heart disease due to smoking kills nearly as many women as lung cancer. Furthermore, the results of a study involving some 32,000 nurses found that steady exposure to smoke nearly doubles the risk of heart attack and death. This becomes even more important when the use of birth control pills is put into the equation. High dose pills can make high blood pressure and internal clot formation more likely. Women who smoke and use The Pill are up to 40 times more likely to have a heart attack than women who neither smoke nor use oral contraceptives.

Supplement Your Heart!

The following list of heart health supplements is compiled from various sources, including previous issues of Nutrition News and recommendations from Life Extension Foundation.

These recommendations are universally good for heart and health. However, keep in mind that for each type of heart problem, different factors are involved. Treatment plans need to be individualized. IF you are under a doctor’s care, check with that person for their input.

Be sure you are taking a multivitamin-mineral formula. Amounts beyond those usually found in a MVM are important and are listed below.

Vitamins

Vitamin C 500-3000 mg daily*

Vitamin B Complex

Folic acid400 mcg-2.5 mg

Vitamin B610-50 mg

Vitamin B12100-1000 mcg

Niacin (vitamin B3) as IHN500-1000 mg*

Pantethine900 mg*

Vitamin D 1000-3000 IU 

Vitamin E Complete 400-600 IU

Vitamin K2 45-90 mcg

Minerals

Magnesium Citrate 1/2-2x calcium intake*

Calcium Citrate No more than1000 mg*4

Chromium Polynicontinate 400 mcg twice daily

Selenium as selenomethionine 200 mcg.

Potassium is needed only when HBP is involved.

Other Essentials

Omega-3 fatty acids (“fish oil”) 3-6 grams

Omega-6 fatty acid GLA Up to 1 gram

CoQ10 25-150 mg*

Garlic 600 mg

Further Considerations

Carnitine 150 mg

Proline 500 mg

Lysine 500 mg

Phosphatidylserine 200 mg

Hawthorn 120 mg 3x/d

Sea Buckthorn Label

Black and green tea Just drink it!

*These supplements are to be taken in divided doses during the day.

FYI: A complete discussion of most of these supplements and their relevance to heart health can be found in Nutrition News “Supplement Your Heart”.

Vitamin C: Essential to the building of collagen, the substance that holds the cells together. When there is insufficient vitamin C, the linings of the arteries become damaged. Also an antioxidant, this property improves cholesterol profiles.

Vitamin B Complex: Work includes the release of energy from food. Three B vites – folic acid, B6, B12 – have FDA claim approval for their ability to ensure safe homocysteine levels. (High homocysteine levels are a CVD risk marker.) 

Niacin (B3) as inositol hexaniacinate (IHN) can out-perform the -statin drug lovastatin in raising HDL levels. No side effects. (HDL is “good” cholesterol.)

Pantethine, active form of pantothenic acid (B5), helps initiate the body’s energy process, significantly reducing blood lipids.

Vitamin D: Kendrick, et al, opened the door on vite D and heart health. Insufficient levels put us at heightened risk for CVD. (Vite D also ensures the absorption of calcium.) 

Complete Vitamin E: Lessens the build up of arterial plaque by protecting LDL from oxidation. (LDL, “bad cholesterol”.) Complete vitamin E contains the tocopherols and tocotrienols that occur with the vitamin in nature.

Vitamin K2: The main constituent of plaque isn’t cholesterol but calcium. K2 directs the body’s use of calcium. Without sufficient K2, calcium ends up in the arteries (and breasts) rather than in the bones.

Magnesium: In Prescription Alternatives, Mindell and Hopkins write, magnesium is “the biggest key to prevention and treatment of heart disease”. It prevents muscle spasms (the heart is a muscle); helps keep blood fluid and promotes healthy lipid profiles, normal blood pressure, and keeps the heartbeat regular.

Calcium: Data are clear that we don’t need more than 1000 mg of calcium supplements. (See footnote 4.) Compute the amount of food calcium you are eating, then make your decision on supplements. If you eat milk products, it’s doubtful that you need calcium supplements. Never take calcium supplements without magnesium and vitamin D.

Chromium: 40 years of evidence show chromium helps reduce the risk of CVD. It is involved in the regulation of insulin and glucose (blood sugar) levels.

Selenium: People living where the soil is selenium-deficient are 3x more likely to die from heart disease than those living with selenium-rich soil.

Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: Fish oils have an FDA approved claim for heart health.

Co-enzyme Q10: Provides fuel for the cells, making it critical for the heart’s pumping action. -Statin drugs stop the production of CoQ10, robbing the heart of energy. On statins? Take 100 mg of CoQ10 daily.

Garlic: Since the 1950s, scientists have been researching garlic, with particular focus on heart health. Shown to help reduce heart disease risk factors, including atherosclerosis, elevated cholesterol, thrombosis, and high blood pressure, aged garlic extract has the highest quality validation from a clinical study perspective.

Further Considerations: Carnitine transports energy to the muscles; proline and lysine keep arteries slick and resistant to plaque deposits; PS, phosphatidylserine, lowers cortisol and helps maintain a healthy heart rate; hawthorn herb strengths the heart’s contraction, improving blood supplies to the heart and the extremities; sea buckthorn significantly lowers C-reactive protein, an inflammation marker. 

In addition, a large meta-analysis shows 2-3 cups daily of black and/or green tea is good for our hearts. 

Siri Says: Studies suggest that women who maintain a healthy body weight, exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, and do not smoke experience more than an 80% reduction in risk for cardiovascular events (including heart attack, heart failure and stroke).

The general advice to women to prevent heart disease from developing is for us to work closely with our doctor, undergoing routine tests that monitor blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, plus those listed in the symptoms sidebar. Practice a healthy lifestyle. It ain’t that hard.  ~ oxox, Siri

Sidebar

Women’s Heart Attack Symptoms

• Pain in the upper abdominal or “epigastrica” region, rather than midchest

• Uncomfortable 

pressure in chest, neck, shoulder, or 

left arm

• Pain spreading to 

neck, jaw, shoulders, 

or arms

• Vague discomfort or 

heaviness.

• Lightheadedness or fainting

• Nausea which doesn’t 

seem related to diet

• Shortness of breath 

with/without exertion

• Abdominal discomfort

• Fatigue not relieved 

by rest

• Sweating

• Persistent: 

  Belching   Bloating

  Toothache

  Joint pain

  Back pain

  Heartburn

SOME WOMEN HAVE NO SYMPTOMS. This is called silent coronary heart disease. Silent CHD may not be diagnosed until a woman has signs and symptoms of a heart attack, heart failure, or an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).

As a protection against silent CHD and in the name of prudence, we recommend that every woman seek testing for her heart’s health. Tests include a fasting blood lipid panel (cholesterol and triglyceride levels + lipoprotein a); plus homocysteine, C-reactive protein, and fibrinogen levels. One might also consider a treadmill stress test.

FYI: “Go Red for Women” is a national heart disease awareness campaign for women sponsored by the American Heart Association.

Sidebar

The Heart is a Lady Part

…Is the title of an article in O: The Oprah Magazine, discussing the interaction of the heart with various female conditions: women using The Pill, women with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), pregnancy-related issues, hormone replacement therapy, and early menopause. All of these conditions are related to a woman’s hormone system.5 In addition, all of them put women at risk for heart disease, calling for close monitoring of one’s health throughout life.

1. The Pill. Still not safe for everyone, particularly “those at risk of stroke” and also women with “a history of breast cancer, liver tumors, migraines with auras, being a smoker over 35, and those with cardiovascular disease”. [It. mine. SDK]

2. PCOS is a hormonal disorder which not only impairs fertility but leaves women more susceptible to heart disease and diabetes. More than 50 percent of women with PCOS have type 2 diabetes by age 40, greatly increasing their risk of dying from heart disease. If you have this condition, monitoring your heart health closely with the help of your physician could be life-saving.

3. Pregnancy-related issues. Gestational diabetes (GD) and high blood pressure (HBP) are bellwethers for the development of these conditions later in life. Of 4,700 pregnant women, those who suffered GD were 3 times more likely to have type 2 diabetes 11 years later while women who had HBP were more than twice as likely to have HBP again as long as 20 years later.

4. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) using estrogen-like substances from mares’ urine and a synthetic progesterone as progestin was once recommended to protect a woman’s heart after menopause. Then the Women’s Health Initiative of 2002 showed that these substances actually exacerbated the situation.

Siri Says: This is where I part company with the editors of O Magazine. They recommend cautionary use of old time synthetic HRT to treat “miserable” menopausal symptoms. There is no mention of bioidentical hormones (also called “naturally-occurring” hormones), and referred to as simply HT. An article in Clinician Reviews (April 14, 2017) shows that currently in the US more than 2.5 million women are using HT. “Compounded bioidentical HT is estimated to have become the most prevalent HT by U.S. prescription volume,” according to Rogerio Lobo, MD, professor of OB-GYN at Columbia University. The April 14 article is a report on a study of the successful use of a bioidentical formula headed to the FDA.

5. Early menopause. Beyond comfort from menopause symptoms, women who experience early menopause (before age 45) have a 50% increased risk of developing CVD. This number comes from a meta review, involving 310,000 women. If this is you, take a hint and talk with your health care provider about using bioidentical HT.