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Heart Disease is the Silent Killer of Women
Heart disease and stroke is a leading cause of death among women in Canada. More women than men die from heart disease and stroke.
Heart disease has long been thought of as a man’s disease, but this idea is mistaken. Heart disease or stroke will kill one out of every two women. Compare this to breast cancer, which kills one out of every 25 women.
42% of women who have a heart attack die within one year, compared to only 24% of men. And, we are starting to hear about women under 40 having strokes, or heart attacks!
Q – What are the risk factors for women between the ages of 30 and 50?
The main risk factors for heart disease in women aged 30 to 50 include:
- High total cholesterol, high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- High blood pressure
Unfortunately, these risk factors are really only a marker of underlying silent inflammation. If you have one of the above risk factors for heart disease, you have silent inflammation. Silent inflammation is the initial trigger of atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque, that is the hallmark feature of coronary heart disease. Silent inflammation is also intimately involved with all of the risk factors for heart disease—silent inflammation leads to, and is worsened by, the risk factors of heart disease mentioned above.
When we understand that the underlying cause of heart disease is silent inflammation, we can then address heart disease by going all the way back to the beginning. Instead of placing the focus on treatment of the markers of heart disease (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc.), if we first focus on quelling the underlying inflammation, we can be much more successful at steering clear of this potentially fatal disease before it has a chance to develop. This becomes clear when we consider the alarming fact that 50 percent of people who die of a heart attack have normal cholesterol levels. Something is missing.
Q- How does a woman know she is having a heart attack?
The symptoms of a heart attack in women differ from those in men. Men tend to experience the classic heart attack symptoms of chest pain and chest pressure.
Women experience subtle symptoms like:
- Arm Pain
- Back Pain/ Chest Pain
- Cold Sweats
- Jaw Pain
- Shortness of breath
- Sleep disturbance
- Unusual fatigue
A survey of 52 women found that pain of the jaw, arm, back, chest, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea and sweating were all reported as acute symptoms by women who had experienced heart attack.
Q – What can women do to keep their hearts healthy and strong?
Know your numbers. If you have high total cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and/or are overweight or obese, you have silent inflammation. To address silent inflammation there are three important dietary and lifestyle factors to address:
- Track your sugar intake. The sugar consumption of most Canadians is way out of control. High sugar intake leads to high blood sugar levels, which creates silent inflammation and leads to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, increasing waistline, and to heart disease itself. To maintain a healthy blood sugar level, your body requires only 10 teaspoons of sugar daily—from added sugar, natural sugars, and carbohydrates (especially refined and processed carbs) that break down into sugar in the body. Track your teaspoons of sugar daily to stay within a heart-healthy range. Having a high sugar level creates silent inflammation—and high BP and high cholesterol.
- Address digestive imbalance. A little-known fact is that your digestive system—home to up to 80 percent of your immune system and ten times more bacterial cells than cells of your body—is a main source of silent inflammation. As one example of many, gut bacterial imbalance has been found in people with type 2 diabetes, a major risk factor for heart disease.[i] Digestive conditions, and disruptions in the bacterial balance of the gut, must be addressed as the root source of silent inflammation that affects systems of the body seemingly unrelated to the gut. The digestive system is at the heart of perfect health. As the Diva of Digestion, I highly recommend a probiotic daily.
- Eat more fat. That’s right! —Many people think fat is bad, but that’s a myth. There are good fats and bad fats, and the average Canadian eats far too many bad fats (in the form of saturated and trans fats, and the omega-6 fatty acids) and too far too few good fats (in the form of omega-3 fatty acids, the beneficial fats found in fish, flax, and walnuts). Minimize saturated fats, eliminate trans fats, and increase your intake of heart-healthy omega-3 fats—especially those found in fish oil. Researchers from Harvard University have estimated that 84,000 deaths could be prevented by adequate omega-3 intake.[ii]
Naturopathic doctor, Brenda Watson, C.N.C. has dedicated her career to helping people achieve vibrant, lasting health through improved digestive function. A dynamic health advocate, she is among the foremost authorities today on optimum nutrition and digestion, natural detoxification methods, and herbal internal cleansing. A New York Times best-selling author of seven books, Brenda continues to educate people about the digestive connection to total-body health. Her fifth PBS special, “Heart of Perfect Health” currently airs nationally. She also contributes regularly to various magazines, television and radio programs, as a natural health expert.
For more information visit, http://www.renewlife.ca.
[i] Qin J, Cai Z, Li S, et al. A metagenome-wide association study of gut microbiota in type 2 diabetes. Nature (2012). Published online 26 September 2012.
[ii] Danaei G, Ding EL, Mosaffarian D, et al. The preventable causes of death in the United States: Comparative risk assessment of dietary, lifestyle, and metabolic factors. PLoS Med. 2009 Apr 28;6(4):e1000058.