In times past it was thought that men were the only ones to suffer and die from coronary artery disease. It is now know that five hundred thousand American women die each year from heart disease and other related conditions.


The last fifty years have seen great strides in medicine leading to longer life span, especially for women. As a woman ages she has many of the same risk factors as men but also must deal with her change of life. Studies have identified two risk factors that appear to be the leading cause of heart disease in women- change of life and lack of lifestyle changes.


The Change of Life

Following menopause, a woman's body experiences reduced estrogen production leading to changes in cholesterol levels, changes in the structure of blood vessels, and an increased production of clotting agents. A menopausal woman is two to three times more likely to suffer heart disease than a pre-menopausal woman of the same age. Hysterectomy at any age also raises a woman’s chances of heart disease.


A Change of Lifestyle

Women are knowledgeable about lifestyles associated with increased incidence of heart disease, yet can be loathe to change them. Statistics from The National Institutes of Health show fifty-six million American women have high cholesterol, 33% have high blood pressure, and 62% are overweight and they are less physically active than men.


Taking care of your heart as you age means getting back to the basics. A good clean well balanced diet is first. If you do no know where to start, try a 1500- 1800 calorie diabetic exchange diet. This diet is based on a balance of the three major food groups; it will also give you some guidelines on portion size. Purified water should be your drink of choice- you can make herbal teas with it, hawthorn berry, dandelion, butcher’s broom and ginseng are all heart healthy drinks. Fish oil is one of the best heart healthy supplements, helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and prevent blood clotting. A good multi-vitamin mineral supplement is important to help maintain overall good general health.


Niacin, another B vitamin helps treat and correct many of the causes of coronary heart disease. Niacin blocks the release of fatty acids from fat cells, plays a critical role in energy production, gene expression, and hormone synthesis. Niacin also helps to lower LDL and raise HDL. Three grams of Niacin for as little as two weeks can reduce serum cholesterol by 26 percent. Check with your doctor before starting a high dose niacin program.


A sensible exercise program three times weekly that raises your heart rate is also a must. Check first with your doctor if you have had symptoms or other health issues that would interfere with an exercise program.


Woman the nurturer: lead the way, live by example and teach your children how to take care of their health and their heart. No job could be more vital. Till next time, Rebecca.