Now for the Good News about women and health disease: (“Whew, L.J., it’s about time!” I can hear you saying. ;-)) There is so much we can do to keep our hearts healthy. Some of the choices I am suggesting for heart disease prevention may be familiar, and some will be new.
Bottom line — the more healthy changes we make at any age, the better our hearts, and lives, will be. It seems that we have heard this all before, yet more women die from heart disease that the next four types of diseases put together. It makes me want to rent billboards around the country with this fact!
Strategies for Heart Disease Prevention in Women
I will skip recounting the statistics on this single most important life change. Please understand there is no greater health-enhancing choice you can make at this very instant, regardless of age or any other factor, than to stop smoking ASAP. You are worth it.
Take GREAT Care of Your Teeth
Sadly, I have first-hand experience with this one, as dental issues may well have contributed to the early death of my father at 68 from a massive heart attack. I was 35 when he died and thought I was taking good care of my teeth. But, after learning about the relationship between my heart and my teeth, well, I doubled-down on dental care.
What is the dental-heart connection? The same bacteria that causes plaque on our teeth can seep from our mouths into the bloodstream and trigger clots that increase our risk of heart disease and heart attacks. If we suffer from gingivitis and periodontal disease, or bleeding gums, the risk of developing heart disease increases. On-going research is stacking up evidence that gum disease plays a role in not only heart disease but other diseases, due to increasing the number one deterrent to being and staying vibrant—inflammation.
The best prescription for dental health heart disease prevention at the moment to keep our pearly whites in sparkling shape. Brush for two minutes (ideally with an electric toothbrush) twice a day, floss twice a day, and have our teeth cleaned and checked twice a year. I have mine cleaned three times a year for good measure, and because I drink coffee, tea, and the occasional glass of red wine. ;-0
Get Your Beauty Sleep
Getting enough sleep will literally change our lives. Extensive research now tells us that seven to eight hours of good quality sleep must become one of our top priorities. The benefits form a long list, but for our discussion here, people who slept less than six hours a night have a 20% higher risk of developing heart disease and/or having a heart attack.
Our bodies need time to repair themselves and detox, and our brains must be allowed to process our days. This all takes time. Reorganizing my life to go to bed earlier has taken me years to finally manage, and I can honestly say, it ranks as one of the smartest things I have done for myself. Try going to bed earlier so that you can get in those eight hours for say, three weeks. Notice how you feel and how your brain functions. You’ll be hooked.
The evidence is rock-solid: meditation is good for what ails us. It slows down our heart rate and lowers our blood pressure, both of which give our heart a break from working so hard.
So many different ways of meditating exist: traditional sitting-on-a-cushion or chair, closing one’s eyes and repeating a word or phrase while letting all other thoughts go, to one I sometimes do, a walking meditation—walking outside in nature and taking in my surroundings while listening to my feet fall on the pavement; staying in the present moment, free of attaching to any thoughts that might come to me. Sometimes I just sit quietly, close my eyes, and listen to the air conditioner run.
Science also tells us we can up the benefits of meditation by focusing on things we are grateful for. Feeling gratitude and appreciation not only rewires the brain, but soothes and smooths the heart rhythms which can help heal the damage stress does to this vital organ. I feel so strongly about the power of gratitude to heal us that I created a free Gratitude MeditationSM App which you can download on your iPhone or Android:
Your Table is Ready
Drawing on the recommendations of Dr. Mark Hyman*, Dr. Andrew Weil**, and Dr. Tieraona Low Dog*** – all leaders in the field of nutrition – here is a heart health-enhancing eating plan. It looks very much like the Mediterranean diet, so there aren’t too many surprises! Remember to try and choose organic products whenever possible.
- Fiber: Aim for 40 grams of fiber a day
- Non-gluten grains like quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, oats, wild rice (not white)
- The rainbow spectrum of fruits and veggies
- Good fats: Clarified grass-fed butter, olives and olive oil, avocados and avocado oil
- Low-mercury fish https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/walletcard.pdf
- Occasionally lean beef or chicken
- Goat and sheep’s milk products (instead of cow’s milk)
- Free-range eggs
- Nuts and seeds of all kinds (limit to 3 oz. per day)
- Green and white tea
- Dark chocolate as an occasional treat (at least 70% cocoa content)
- Red wine 3-4, 4oz. glasses per week
- Sugars (use sparingly): Molasses, honey, coconut sugar, palm sugar
- Limited coffee
To Round Out Our Eating
Tapping again into our trio of experts, here are the key supplements they recommend for heart disease prevention. Before adding these to your regime, always check with your doctor or, if possible, work with a trained nutritional specialist, a DIFM: Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine or an RDN: Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.
- High-Quality, High-Potency, Complete Multivitamin: The right multivitamin will contain all the basic vitamins and minerals. An optimal dose usually requires 2 to 6 capsules or tablets a day.
- Vitamin D3: Our vitamin D deficiency is now epidemic. Depending on what is in your multivitamin, Dr. Hyman recommends taking additional vitamin D.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA): From fish oil supplements. Look for molecularly distilled products certified to be free of heavy metals and other contaminants.
- NAC (N-acetyl Cysteine): Great antioxidant and especially supportive of lung tissue.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid: ALA is a powerful antioxidant, supports liver function, boosts metabolism and helps turn calories into energy in the muscles among other things.
- CoQ10: CoQ10 has potent antioxidant properties to help support cell function, healthy BP and overall cardiovascular health.
Dr. Low Dog adds for women:
- B Complex: B1, B3, B6, B9 and B12
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin E
Of course exercise has to be on the heart disease prevention list. Turning to the advice of Joanna Chikwe, MD, the Chair of the Department of Cardiac Surgery in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, her recommendation is simple: exercise one hour a day, most every day—brisk walking, cycling, running, or anything else aerobic that keeps your heart rate in the 85% zone for most of the 60 minutes. I will add, do some weight bearing exercises a couple times a week, in addition to, or on the off days from the hour of aerobic exercise. You will feel and look like someone just handed you a billion dollars!
I hope these tips will inspire you to make some positive choices to help keep your heart, and your health, purring.
Until next time…Be Vibrant!
***Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and More by Tieraona Low Dog, MD