Heart disease is the number one killer of women of all ages each year. Now that we have finally achieved equality as women we also have rates of heart disease equal to men, although more women than men are dying of heart attacks. Nearly one out of two women will die of cardiovascular disease. Women are also more likely than men to suffer a stroke after a heart attack. We have been taught that a heart attack is signaled by arm-clutching chest pain, but women can have very different heart attack symptoms than men. Unfortunately, many women are not aware that the risk is so great and do very little to protect themselves from the disease. Cardiovascular disease is a category of about 30 conditions including hardening of the arteries, congestive heart failure, heartbeat rhythm irregularities, heart muscle disease and valve disorders.
Heart disease is a silent killer because often people do not know that they have it. Statistics published by the American Heart Association (AHA) for 2004 show that 50 percent of men and 64 percent of women who died suddenly of heart disease during the course of their study had no previous symptoms. Be conscious of heart disease symptoms, including shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, chest pain with exercise that subsides when you rest, bouts of indigestion, a constricting feeling in your throat, and profuse sweating for no apparent reason (not menopause). Seek emergency help for stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, irregular pulse, light-headedness or unusual fatigue, and pain or numbness in the arms, back, neck or chest.
Although you may be predisposed to heart disease because of family history, this does not mean you will develop it. If you have a family history of coronary heart disease (CHD) you must be vigilant in making lifestyle choices that can prevent this deadly condition. Heart disease actually begins in the stomach. A poor diet of packaged or processed foods high in trans-fatty acids and devoid of fiber and nutrients (especially B vitamins and folic acid) are the main instigators of heart disease. Couple a poor diet with high stress, dehydration, aging, smoking, extra weight and lack of exercise and sleep and your risk climbs higher. Diabetes, high blood pressure, high levels of harmful LDL cholesterol or high blood homocysteine levels compound the problem. Homocysteine in the blood indicates a breakdown in chemical processes in the body and is strongly linked to heart disease. The risk of CHD is especially high for women of African-American descent.
Studies show that a diet emphasizing fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats and fish may lower the risk of heart disease. Eating this way also provides valuable antioxidants, which are useful in combating chronic inflammation. Eat two eight-inch raw carrots per day, as this has been shown to reduce cholesterol by 50 points in a matter of weeks. Eat plenty of fresh-pressed garlic to lower blood pressure.
The AHA recommends two servings of fish per week to prevent heart disease. Fatty fish contains EPA and DHA, omega-3 essential fatty acids. Alternatively, be sure to supplement with essential fatty acids to lower triglyceride levels and support normal cardiovascular health.
Make sure that you stay hydrated with adequate amounts of pure, filtered water to maintain blood flow. Studies show drinking five glasses of water per day cuts your risk of stroke and heart attack in half.
Reduce consumption of salt, caffeine and alcohol and be sure to get plenty of exercise followed by sufficient rest.
Have your thyroid checked. Low levels of thyroid hormone cause heart palpitations in women and add to heart stress.
Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.
Insist that your doctor measure your homocysteine and C-reactive protein levels (both indicators of heart disease). Fortunately, high levels can be quickly addressed by supplementing with magnesium, B6, B12, folic acid and fish oils.
Studies show that holding on to anger is not only bad for your mood but is also linked to increased risk of heart disease.
A common culprit found in people with high blood pressure is the wrong ratio of potassium to salt. Reduce sodium intake by avoiding table salt and processed foods. Increase your intake of potassium-rich foods such as bananas, apricots, tomatoes, avocados, potatoes, lean chicken meat and fresh fish.
Get adequate exercise. Walking 30 minutes three times a week cuts your risk of heart attack by about 30 percent. The more energetic your exercise, the greater your benefit: increasing your walking paceto two miles per hour or faster can reduce your risk up to 63 percent.
Caution: If you are currently on Coumadin (warfarin), a high cholesterol or high blood pressure medication, talk to your physician or pharmacist about drug-nutrient interactions. Be aware that both high blood pressure and high cholesterol medications cause depletion of coenzyme Q10 so you must supplement to ensure adequate levels. According to the Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook for Pharmacists, if you are taking Lasix (furosemide) you should be aware that Lasix depletes calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamins B1, B6 and C and zinc. These nutrients must be replaced to prevent deficiency.
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