Women, Love Your Hearts!

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, women are more likely than men to die of a heart attack or stroke. In fact, Canadian statistics indicate that stroke kills 32% more women than men, and women are 16% more likely than men to die after a heart attack. Women are not often aware that their overall risk for heart disease and stroke increases during menopause. Why does this occur? One answer is estrogen, a hormone that has many functions, including protecting the heart. Before menopause, women produce plenty of estrogen to decrease their risk of heart disease. However, during and after menopause a woman’s ovaries will slowly stop producing estrogen, and women may develop an equal or greater heart disease risk as men.

How can we start to improve our overall heart health? Most Canadian women have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. There are risk factors we cannot control such as age, gender and family history. However, there are risk factors that we can control such as smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol, physical inactivity and obesity. These can be changed through daily dietary and lifestyle modifications which will help to manage weight, improve cholesterol, triglyceride and blood sugar levels, and lower blood pressure.

  • Fill your diet with fruits and vegetables to provide heart-healthy antioxidants and essential nutrients. Aim to eat about 7-10 servings per day, and aim for at least 5 colours each day!
  • Eat more fibre rich foods such as beans, legumes, whole grains and seeds. Fibre helps to regulate our appetite, slow down the absorption of our sugars, and lower cholesterol and triglycerides. If you need some help getting more fibre into your diet, look at supplemental sources such as chia and PGX.
  • Reduce your consumption of foods that are high in calories, sodium, saturated and trans fats. This includes refined, processed or fast foods.
  • Increase your fats…good fats that is! You can get healthy fats with the use of olive, fish and coconut oils, and by eating cold-water fish such as salmon, sardines and anchovies. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation, triglyceride levels and the overall risk of heart disease.
  • Add garlic, onions, bananas and chocolate to your grocery list! These foods have important compounds that have been shown to lower blood pressure. Choose dark chocolate with a high cocoa content and eat only a piece or two per day!
  • If you are taking a statin medication, talk to your health care provider about supplementing with Coenzyme Q10. Statin medications may deplete the production of this important nutrient which improves energy levels, may lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and has essential antioxidant effects.
  • Increase your physical activity with walking, swimming, dancing…any activity that will keep you motivated and moving. This will help to promote weight loss, healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and decrease stress, which all have direct, positive effects on your cardiac health.
  • Introduce stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, tai chi, yoga, and deep breathing along with adequate sleep, all of which will further benefit your heart.
  • Finally, if you are a smoker, it is important to find ways to help you quit. Discuss your options with your health care provider.

Reference: Women & Heart Health. Heart and Stroke Foundation – The Heart Truth.

This article has been provided to you by Natural Factors.