Once she reaches the age of 65 a woman’s rate of heart disease has caught up with that of men so it makes sense to be proactive and minimise your risk factors for a long and healthy life.
The biggest risk factors are smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, being overweight and having an unhealthy diet. They are also risk factors for a number of other serious health conditions including diabetes so reducing them will improve your health profile immediately.
It is a common misconception that women suffer exactly the same type of heart disease as men, but yet again there is a real difference between the sexes. Women post-menopause can have narrowing of the arteries and a build-up of deposits just like men do, but it is much more common for the cause of the heart attack to be spasm of the coronary arteries. Research suggests that the oestrogen component of HRT may aggravate coronary artery spasm, where bioidentical natural progesterone will relieve it.
What to do to minimize your risk:
You already know to eat a varied, healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables but there is now a new player in the mix. Interesting new research from Malmo in Sweden found that women whose diets were high in fibre had almost 25 percent lower risk of heart disease than women whose diets were low in it. The best fibre source is fruit and vegetables, rather than bread, so you are getting multiple health benefits as well as heart protecton.
A real health boost will be yours if you also follow an anti-inflammatory diet with lots of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants – including vitamins A and C – plus the minerals potassium and magnesium.
Good news if you love chocolate – and who doesn’t – because cocoa has been validated as having these cardiovascular benefits:
• Inhibits the oxidation of LDL
• Improves endothelial function
• Inhibits platelet activation
• Reduces LDL
• Increases HDL
• Increases insulin sensitivity
• Reduces inflammatory proteins
• Lowers blood pressure
Of course these are not just found in chocolate – you will get the same benefits in tea, fruit, vegetables and red wine so you can balance out your chocolate intake! The chocolate health winner though is raw chocolate and you can add it to smoothies, drinks and shakes. If you want to chew on a bar then go for dark (plain) chocolate with a high cocoa content of at least 75%.
Regular, enjoyable, exercise is also key and if it is weight bearing it will help with osteoporosis too.
Stress affects every single part of your body and if you are regularly stressed, and on a long-term basis, then this is a serious risk factor and needs to be addressed. Find ways to reduce the pressure whether that is taking a walk, talking to a friend or taking up a hobby. Singing, dancing, meditation are all good ways to relax – just find what suits you and stick to it.
Tackling your diet, exercise regime and stress levels will make a huge difference to your risk of heart disease. There is also another thing you can do to protect your heart.
It has been known for many years that progesterone is effective in relaxing coronary arteries which have gone into spasm, and that excess oestrogen can in fact cause spasm. As we have seen, most menopausal women’s heart attacks are due to heart spasm so this is a simple and effective preventive measure to avoid a potentially fatal heart attack.