Did you know that cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer of women?
Despite this, cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women remains understudied, under-recognized, under-diagnosed, and under-treated, as stated by a recent Lancet Commission
The good news is that 80-90% of heart disease cases are preventable - early detection and a healthy diet and lifestyle promote heart health.
Women are more at risk of cardiovascular disease than men
Fewer women than men survive heart attacks because they have undiagnosed or untreated risk factors like diabetes or high blood pressure. Our hearts are typically smaller, so detection of plaque is more difficult in smaller arteries. The symptoms of a heart attack are more subtle than those in men, with dramatic fatigue, shortness of breath, sweating and pain in the neck, jaw and back often being misdiagnosed. Studies have also shown that certain diseases that only affect women such as endometriosis and PCOS increase the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) but are often ignored.
Menopause can contribute to the root cause of cardiovascular disease
Age, diet and lifestyle cause our hormones to become unbalanced and increase the risk of type II diabetes, dementia and increased fat mass, particularly around the mid section.
Common risk factors for these conditions include:
- Low HDL
- High triglycerides
- High insulin
- High glucose
- Abdominal obesity
- High blood pressure
These are all symptoms of two underlying conditions and the root cause of most chronic illnesses - Inflammation and Insulin Resistance.
Inflammation and insulin resistance
It is now widely accepted that inflammation is the common factor among many serious diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune diseases.
As we know, inflammation is your body’s immune response to threats or offending agents such as food allergies, infections, viruses, oxidants, medications, toxic chemicals, injuries or a significant stress event. It is essential for healing and repair.
However, sustained periods of inflammation result in chronic inflammation… and chronic inflammation is involved in the disease process of all of the above. The most significant cause of inflammation is sugar.
Sugar triggers insulin resistance and inflammation
A study published in JAMA internal medicine in 2014 found that consuming too much added sugar causes the insulin hormone to spike, can raise blood pressure and increase chronic inflammation, all of which are pathological pathways to heart disease.
It is important to understand that plaque (made of cholesterol, calcium and protein) forms in the arteries in response to inflammation. It is the immune function response 'to heal' the damaged area. As we can see, cholesterol is an indicator but not the root cause of heart disease - inflammation is!
What is the best diet to reduce inflammation?
You guessed it - the Mediterranean diet is one of the only nutritional approaches that successfully reduces inflammation and insulin resistance. There is strong scientific evidence of its impact on total cardiovascular (and cancer) mortality and a reduction in cardiovascular event rates.
The heart is the muscle that responds most quickly to nutrition, so a diet rich in key vitamins, minerals, nutrients and antioxidants is essential:
- Sugar and gluten - eliminate refined sugar and gluten and reduce carbohydrates to lower insulin levels
- Omega-3 fatty acids - increase omega-3 and lower omega-6 fatty acids to reduce inflammation
- Vitamin D3 and Vitamin K2 - supplement with both to ensure the absorption of calcium into the bones and prevent arterial calcification. K2 also regulates normal blood clotting and D3 supports a healthy immune system and muscle function
- Electrolytes - balance potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium. A diet rich in magnesium and potassium is essential in preventing cardiac arrhythmia in particular, however insulin resistance blocks the absorption of these
- Vitamin E - supplement with tocotrienols. This form can reduce or reverse inflammation and free radical damage to the heart and reduce the impact of other cardiovascular health risk factors
My nutrition plans are Mediterranean inspired and whole foods based, packed full of essential healthy fats, proteins and nutrients with anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties.
Heart disease is a lifestyle disease
Nutrition is a significant factor but so is lifestyle. Weight gain due to metabolic and hormonal changes as we age, lack of sufficient physical activity, stress and poor sleep are major risk factors of heart disease, but a healthy diet can elevate energy levels, improve sleep and boost immunity.
Early detection is essential
Insulin resistance and inflammation are known as silent threats because there are not always physical indications. As a result, they are often not diagnosed or treated until they develop into a chronic condition such as heart disease or diabetes.
This is why preventative detection and accurate marker testing are critical. Medical protocol often focuses on more general (and thus, inaccurate) tests. These are the key markers and tests to request:
- CAC test to determine level of coronary artery calcification
- Homa-IR test to determine level of insulin resistance
- hs-CRP and Homocysteine markers to determine level of inflammation
If these symptoms or conditions resonate with you and you would like to find out more information about blood work analysis and recommendations for a nutrition plan tailored to your specific requirements, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or book a free intro session. I will be delighted to help you feel and look better naturally.
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