Women’s Rising Rate of Heart Disease

Posted by My Doctor Suggests on Dec 9th 2020

“Women’s Rising Rate of Heart Disease”

“The burden of Women’s Rising Rate of Heart Disease is very great” says Gregory Burke, MD, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Public Health Sciences, at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. “The earlier folks adopt healthier behaviours, the lower their overall risk for heart disease or Stroke outcome.”

Dr. Burke says, “people can reduce their risk of heart disease by modifying their lifestyle to include a well-balanced diet and regular exercise.”

People don’t die simply because they’re aged; People die of “disease” – mainly heart disease. Most causes of disease and death are preventable, because our diet is the root cause of premature death and disability.

Heart Disease is the leading killer of both men and women in the United States. More than 29% of deaths of women are heart related. Women are more likely to die following a heart attack than men.

Interestingly, death itself is not the biggest problem for women with heart disease. The real problem is that women are dying prematurely, or they become dis-abled after a heart attack or stroke.

Cindy Pearson, Executive Director of the National Women’s Health Network says, “there are far too many women dying of heart disease in their 60’s, when no one expects to die because that’s too young in this country.” There are also women, who for many years, are ill with heart disease – being out of breath, not being able to walk up one flight of stairs – because heart disease impairs their ability to get around.

Ms. Pearson continues, “Sometimes women recognize a painful tightening in the chest as a potentially serious heart problem symptom.” Many women tend to ignore this warning.

That little bit of jaw pain, shoulder ache, nausea, vomiting and shortness of breath, are too often, attributed to ‘just getting older.”

Although more men than women die of heart disease than women, females tend to be under diagnosed, often to the point that it’s too late to help them once the condition is discovered.

Here’s more little-known facts:

More women than men suffer strokes and heart attacks each year. Although many of the risk factors are the same for men and women, including a family history of stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, some risk factors are unique to women, including;

  • Taking Birth Control pills\
  • Being Pregnant
  • Using hormone replacement therapy, a combined hormone therapy of progestin and estrogen designed to relieve menopausal symptoms
  • Having frequent migraine headaches
  • Having a thick waist (larger than 35.2 inches), particularly if post-menopausal and high triglyceride (blood fat) levels.
  • More factors that affect both men and women:

  • Increasing age
  • Smoking
  • High Blood Cholesterol
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Failing to have regular check-ups and monitor levels
  • Delay in seeking medical care when symptoms arise
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity and overweight
  • Diabetes
  • Question: Do medical conditions affect cholesterol levels?

    Answer: Occasionally, a medical condition may cause an elevation of cholesterol levels in the blood. These include hypothyroidism (an under active thyroid gland), liver disease and kidney disease.

    Question: Are there medications that affect cholesterol levels?

    Answer: Yes. Some medicines like steroids and progestins, may increase “bad” cholesterol and decrease the “good” cholesterol.

    What you need to understand about High Cholesterol

    The cholesterol in our bodies is composed of two different types of cholesterol.

  • LDL or low-density lipoprotein is the “bad” cholesterol that will build up in our arteries as plaque. LDL levels are measurable:
  • Healthy: less than 100 mg/DL
  • Basically OK: 100 to 129 mg/DL
  • Borderline High: 130 to 159 mg/DL
  • High: 160 to 189 mg/DL
  • Very High: 190 mg/DL and higher
  • HDL or High-density lipoprotein is the “good” cholesterol – the type that helps remove “bad” cholesterol from the arteries.
  • HDL Levels are measurable:
  • Healthy: 60 mg/dl or higher
  • Okay: 41 to 59 mg/dl
  • Unhealthy: 40 mg/dl or Lower
  • Your total Cholesterol number is the combination of LDL and HDL:

  • Healthy: Less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl)
  • Borderline High: 200 – 239 mg/dl
  • High: 240 mg/dl and above
  • Always allow your Doctor to interpret the test result numbers.

    Your Doctor will have a more meaningful perspective based on your complete medical profile and history.

    Question: Does my diet affect my cholesterol levels?

    Answer: Definitely YES!

    It is not the cholesterol in foods that causes the problems; The saturated fats and trans-fats in our diet are the root causes of our cholesterol problems.

    Here’s what to do next:

  • Read the labels carefully on all processed foods and reject those which contain saturated fats and trans-fats.
  • Avoid fatty meats, bacon, and organ meats.
  • Pate, liver, kidney and prawns will add to the LDL cholesterol in your blood, so be careful to only eat these in moderation.

  • The link between being overweight and having high cholesterol is the consumption of a high fat diet that produces both conditions.
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood cholesterol, you may already be taking medications to control it and you may have made some lifestyle changes to help lower your cholesterol levels naturally.
  • Meanwhile, let me repeat why it’s important to keep an eye on your blood pressure as well.

    People living with high blood cholesterol often end up dealing with high blood pressure as well.

    What’s the connection between the two?

    First, let’s look at what high blood pressure really is. The American Heart Association states that high blood pressure (or hypertension) occurs when the force of your blood pushing against the wall of your blood vessels is consistently too high.

    A major cause of the higher pressure required to move more blood through your arteries is the buildup of plaque from the cholesterol buildup along the artery walls.

    High blood pressure and high cholesterol then work together in many ways to further damage your arteries. Over time, high blood pressure damages and weakens the walls of the arteries and blood vessels. They may suffer tears that not only weaken the arteries but provide niches for more excess cholesterol which increases the amount of plaque, which in turn, leads to higher blood pressure.

  • This symbiotic relationship of high blood pressure and high cholesterol compromises your heart, arteries and your overall health. Among the high risks is the degeneration and dysfunction in the eyes, kidney and your brain.
  • Even if your cholesterol and blood pressure levels are only mildly elevated, when they are both present in your body, they can interact with each other to more quickly damage your blood vessels and your heart. If not controlled, they eventually set the stage for a heart attack and stroke, as well as other problems like kidney malfunction and vision loss.
  • If you’ve already been diagnosed with high blood cholesterol, watch those blood pressure numbers like a hawk.

    These two high risk factors like to hang out together.

    But if you’re aware of what’s happening, you can win the battle for your health and enjoy many more years of health and well-being.

    Modern Medicine tends to focus on medicating disease rather than preventing it. Prescription drugs bring Drug companies over one trillion dollars annually. The U.S. has over 1/3rd of this market. Over 70% of Americans are presently taking at least one prescription drug.

    Since most Doctors have not received adequate training to counsel patients about their diet, Doctors tend to focus on prescription drugs as a solution to these health problems.

    People may be living longer than they did a few generations ago, but these “added years” are often not healthy ones. Living longer with Chronic Disease is just living sicker for a longer period of time.

    Back in 1978, the World Health Organization introduced the term “primordial prevention.” This is a term used to describe a strategy to prevent not just the chronic disease, but to prevent the “risk factors” that cause the disease.

    Risk Factors commonly include:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Obesity
  • Lack of Exercise
  • Poor nutritional diet
  • These are factors that you can control. You can choose to avoid or eliminate all of these “risk factors.”

    At the turn of the century (1900) in the U.S., the top three causes of death were infectious diseases; namely Tuberculosis, pneumonia and diarrhea.

    Today, the top three causes of death are “lifestyle diseases.”

  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer
  • Lung Disease
  • For many Americans, their daily diet of animal-based foods and highly processed foods including meats, dairy, eggs, oils, sodas, sugar and refined grains, comprise the antithesis of a healthy, natural, plant- based diet.

    The result is the epidemic rise in diet-related chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and various cancers.

    How to Make Some Positive Changes

    Challenge #1 is simply that we like many of the foods that are not good for us; the fatty foods, the sugary foods that taste good. Culturally, we celebrate Birthdays and many other social occasions with high-calorie cake; major holidays with meat, poultry, gravy, mashed potatoes and desserts. Changing your diet will be somewhat challenging.

    Changing vs. Challenging – what’s the missing “C” word?


    Eat a diet of fresh, raw or lightly steamed vegetables, fruits. Eliminate saturated and trans-fats. Remove the sugar and the salt. Eat carbohydrates in moderation. Eliminate Dairy Products. 90% of heart attacks could be avoided by these kinds of diet changes.

    Choose brown rice over white. Use lentils, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Eliminate animal sourced foods and replace them with plant-based foods.

    Buying produce, grown and available locally, including organically grown produce, is one way to fight back against the degenerative industrial agriculture system that is producing a large amount of our food. The foods available in a grocery store near you are often produced with potentially harmful additives and added fats, salts and sugars that are often disguised on the ingredients label. The chemicals that are sprayed on or mixed into the foods in order to preserve a lengthy shelf-life, are not necessarily the most healthful, and serve only, in many cases, the commercial produce producer.

    Processed foods can be very nutritionally deficient; obese people can be suffering from malnutrition because many of the foods they eat contain very low levels of nutrients.

    In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, people ate foods produced within 25 – 100 miles of where they lived. Today, many of our foods come from 1500 or more miles away and picked “green” to allow them to “ripen” while in transit. These foods may also have been sprayed and genetically altered to survive these distances and increase their shelf life.

    Today, many of us would be offended if someone at the next table in a restaurant lit up and started smoking a cigarette. Hopefully, at some time in the not too distant future, we might also be offended when a “server” asks us – “Want fries with that?”

    Here’s more of what you need to know:

    The body already produces cholesterol on its own; the body requires this vital fat for the proper function of cell membranes. However, consuming foods and drinks high in cholesterol may give the body more than it needs, which poses an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, and other health ailments.

    The degree to which foods high in cholesterol raise blood cholesterol varies from person to person, but everyone can benefit from a balanced diet paired with daily exercise to maintain healthy levels. Some foods not only assist in lowering bad LDL cholesterol but also leave the good HDL cholesterol unaffected.

  • 1. Almonds
  • Rich in unsaturated fats, almonds work hard to raise healthy HDL cholesterol while lowering unhealthy LDL cholesterol. They also make LDL less likely to oxidize, which helps prevent build-ups in the arteries and restricted blood flow to the heart. When you snack on almonds, though, beware of their high calorie count.

  • 2. Orange Juice
  • Orange juice does great things for the body. Certain brands have a lot of phytosterols, plant-derived compounds known for lowering LDL cholesterol. Sterol-fortified margarine, soy milk, milk, cheese, and bread also have similar effects. An 8-ounce glass of OJ has healthy benefits, but it is important to check with a doctor to ensure the juice does not interfere with medications. Also check with your doctor if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, as fruit juice can raise blood sugar levels.

  • 3. Olive Oil
  • This miracle oil will increase the good and decrease the bad -- all thanks to an abundance of antioxidants and healthy monounsaturated fats. Olive oil is also rich in phenols, plant substances that lower the risk of blood clots. If you need to adjust your diet, consider substituting two tablespoons of olive oil each day in place of another fat.

  • 4. Steamed Asparagus
  • Steaming vegetables enhances a vegetable's ability to bind to bile acids in the gut. Bound bile acids use up more cholesterol to produce bile, leaving fewer harmful fats floating around in your bloodstream. This is not just true for asparagus. Okra, carrots, beets, green beans, eggplants, and cauliflowers are all a bit more heart-healthy after a quick steam.

  • 5. Oatmeal
  • There is a reason breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Kickstarting your morning with a bowl of warm oatmeal incorporates some healthy elements into your diet, first thing. Whole grains are an ideal source of soluble fiber, and oats top the list. Soluble fiber is a gel that prevents cholesterol from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Eat anywhere from five to ten grams of soluble fiber each day -- at least one and a quarter cups of oatmeal -- to combat bad cholesterol. Adding toppings like chopped apples can further increase the fiber in your first meal.

  • 6. Pinto Beans
  • Pinto beans also contain a lot of soluble fiber. Simply adding a half cup of pinto beans daily can slow cholesterol absorption. Chili, tacos, and other traditional Mexican foods taste delicious with the healthful addition of pinto beans. If using canned instead of fresh beans, be sure to rinse them well to wash away the excess sodium.

  • 7. Blueberries
  • Blueberries are a nutritional superstar, and these benefits extend to cholesterol. The berries reduce levels of artery-clogging LDL, which may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Consume them frozen, freeze-dried, or fresh, and you are on your way to becoming healthier.

  • 8. Tomatoes
  • Kick unhealthy LDL cholesterol to the curb with lycopene-rich tomatoes. Lycopene not only lowers bad LDL cholesterol, but it may also modestly increase beneficial HDL cholesterol. Eat at least 25 milligrams of tomato products a day for several weeks to reap the benefits.

  • 9. Avocados
  • Avocados are full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats -- the same fats that are in olive oil. Eating avocados may slowly lower LDL cholesterol and boost HDL cholesterol. Avocados also may reduce blood triglycerides. You can mash the creamy, mild treat into guacamole or spread it on a cracker, slice it onto sandwiches, or stir it into salads.

  • 10. Chocolate
  • Chocolate lovers everywhere, rejoice! In small doses, Dark chocolate can be healthy for your heart. Dark chocolate is full of flavonoids, antioxidants that help lower bad cholesterol. Moreover, dark chocolate contains those beneficial monounsaturated fats. Always check the labels, though. For real benefits, ensure the chocolate is at least 70% cocoa. Otherwise, the snack contains too few healthy oleic acids for full benefits. Most people can benefit from up to one ounce of dark chocolate each day.

    When patients seek consultation about diet, they frequently ask about specific types of popular diets, not the very controlled diets employed in research studies. Dietary preferences are personal, so patients may have researched a particular diet or feel that they will be more adherent if only 1 or 2 components of their meals are changed.

    There is no single optimal dietary strategy for patients with both obesity and type 2 DM. In general, diets are categorized based on the 3 basic macronutrients: carbohydrate, fat, and protein. We will review several popular diets, delineating content, effects on weight loss, glycemic control, and cardiovascular factors.


    Carbohydrates are organic compounds in food that include sugars and starches and are a source of energy for cells in the body and the brain in particular. The US Department of Agriculture Recommended Dietary Allowance of carbohydrate is 130 g per day minimum or 45% to 65% of total daily caloric intake.16 For a 1,700-calorie diet, 130 g of carbohydrate is 30% of the total caloric intake; in a 1,200-calorie diet, it is 43%.17

    In practice, the median intake of carbohydrates for US adults is much higher, at 220 to 330 g per day for men and 180 to 230 g per day for women.16 The ADA recommends that all Americans consume fewer refined carbohydrates and added sugars in favor of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruit.18

    Low-carbohydrate diets focus on reducing carbohydrate intake with the thought that fewer carbohydrates are better. However, the definition of a low-carbohydrate diet varies. In most studies, carbohydrate intake was limited to less than 20 g to 120 g daily or fewer than 4% to 45% of the total calories consumed.17,19 Intake of fat and total calories is unlimited, though unsaturated fats are preferred over saturated or trans fats.

    Limiting the intake of disaccharide sugar in the form of sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup is endorsed because of concerns that these sugars are rapidly digested, absorbed, and fully metabolized. However, several randomized trials showed that substituting sucrose for equal amounts of other types of carbohydrates in individuals with type 2 DM showed no difference in glycemic response.

    The resulting conclusion is that the postprandial glycemic response is mainly driven by the amount rather than the type of carbohydrates. The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with obesity and an increased risk of diabetes, attributed to the high caloric intake and decreased insulin sensitivity associated with these beverages.21

    Of the 2 monosaccharides, glucose and fructose, that make up sucrose, fructose is metabolized in the liver. The rapid metabolism of fructose may lead to alterations in lipid metabolism and affect insulin sensitivity.22 While the ADA does not advise against consuming fructose, it does advise limiting its use due to the caloric density of many foods containing fructose.

    Multiple studies have investigated the effect of a low-carbohydrate diet on weight loss, glucose control, and cardiovascular risk, but comparing the results is difficult due to the varying definitions of a low-carbohydrate diet.

    There is a lot of information about Diets available on-line and it’s easy to get confused about which are the best choices to help you to Live a Healthier Lifestyle.

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