Women! Let’s Discuss Your Heart Health
The CDC stated recently that women are at an all-time high for heart disease, cardiovascular disease or CVD, and that men were actually on par or lowering their relative risks for CVD. This might be associated with how well known the symptoms are and how far the public education reached. The American Heart Association states that between 2013-2016, 44.7% of women aged 20 years old and older had some form of cardiovascular disease. In 2016, 49.0% of women made up the total deaths of related CVD in women. Specifically, in Connecticut according to CDC, CVD is listed as number one for mortality related diseases, followed by cancer in the number two spot, followed by stroke- fifth, diabetes – seventh and kidney disease – tenth. Four of the top ten diseases associated with death are related with how the heart relates to the body. Here is the kicker, it is not a disease of the old, unfortunately it has a high effect on women of younger ages (think ages 20s to 50s).
Signs and Symptoms
These are commonly expressed by women who experience cardiovascular incidents:
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in chest that lasts a few minutes or comes and goes
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort/pain
- Cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
Women are more likely to experience the lesser known symptoms than the traditional symptom picture associated with men and movies. Listen to your body. It is better to trust yourself, run some tests, and know the situation than be scared or in the dark. Take your health in your hands and address the issue head on.
How many women do you know, or do you suffer from yo-yo dieting – losing weight only to gain it back within a year? This correlation is a high predictive factor for CVD issues in women. This issue requires finding a lifestyle change that works for you to keep the weight off and keep moving doing activities that you enjoy.
Second, what you put into and onto your body matters. Are you eating foods that are high in hormones or cause inflammation? Inflammation alone will cause the body to hold onto weight. It is hard for the body to focus on being healthy and heading back to homeostasis (our natural balance in life), when it is focusing on putting out a constant fire. Are you putting chemicals that prohibit your body from sweating or smothering it in a substance that doesn’t allow it to breathe? Our skin is our largest organ, it breathes, it is porous, and permeable (allows passage of materials). Our skin helps us to detox and remove toxins or substances that no longer serve our body or are in excess, much like the kidneys and urine.
Third, visit with your naturopath to get tested for your risks, current status and make a plan that will fit your needs.
Your Naturopath may prescribe or incorporate the following into your regime. A deficiency in nutrients can lead to many pathologies within the person. A look into your nutrient profile and bodily requirements may be addressed and supplements or infusions recommended. Homeopathy may be prescribed for bodily, mental, emotional and spiritual symptoms to help restore health and wellbeing.
- CoQ10 is essential to our mitochondria or our powerhouse to our cells; mitochondria are the power plants that utilize CoQ10 to run our machinery, to provide energy to our bodies, acts as an antioxidant, and has an integral part in our metabolism.
- Berries have polyphenols and specifically proanthocyanidins (a flavonoid) and are high in antioxidants that help our cardiovascular systems, digestion, brain power, blood sugar and so much more.
- Exercise. John Hopkins Hospital recommends doing 150 minutes of moderate physical activities, but also suggests three different types of exercise: aerobic (things that make your heart pump, increase your pulse rate), resistance or strength training (like pushups, squats and weight bearing activities such as carrying your 30 pound child around and setting them down only to pick them up 30 seconds later repeating for a few sets of 10) and stretching, flexibility and balance.
- Quercetin helps reduce inflammation and response to allergies, boost immunity and help conditions of the cardiovascular system, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, bladder infections. Take as a supplement or saute red onions (from 415-1900+ mg of Quercetin).
- Resveratrol found on grapes (that white stuff you try to wash off), in red wine, and dark chocolate or one may supplement it. A generally safe dosage for resveratrol is 20 – 100 mg daily and higher with supervision. It is a powerful antioxidant that aids in the treatment of cancers and heart disease among others.
- Magnesium is a mineral that is essential to almost every single system. It helps blood vessels contract and dilate or open and close to help move blood throughout the body to bring oxygen and nutrients to cells and remove waste from cells. One can eat walnuts, spinach, almonds, avocados and many other nuts and seeds or dark leafy greens. The recommended daily intake is 400mg.
- Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, a nutrient that is shown to increase Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD), a power antioxidant that helps lower hsCRP (a biomarker of inflammation) along with blood pressure.
- L-Carnitine is an amino acid that is found in avocados, animal protein and soy products and most of our cells. Studies show it may be highly effective given after heart attack to repair the cells and heart. It helps improve exercise tolerance for those suffering from congestive heart failure.
- Omega-3-fatty acids help reduce inflammation and build up our cell membranes essentially creating a specific permeable membrane. It helps reduce blood clots and lower blood pressure. Omegas are essential for our nerve health, brain health, digestive tract and cardiovascular system. So, eat your fatty fish (salmon).
- Monounsaturated fats like avocados, olive oil, pecans, walnuts, almonds, all have monounsaturated fats in them that help lower our “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and raise our “good” cholesterol (HDL). Remember we need to eat fat to make all our hormones that help promote healthy weight and bodily function.
- Vitamin D should be tested before just taking it, but natural ways to get it are sitting outside with your sleeves and pants rolled up and face exposed. Vitamin D acts like a hormone in our body, it helps our immune system stay healthy. In NHANES III, there was a U-shaped relationship between vitamin D and mortality risk, especially for women with levels lower than 50 ng/L of 25(OH)D.
- Taurine acts as an antioxidant, improves left ventricular function, and helps the sympathetic nervous system which responds to events of stress. Taurine is also useful in cases of diabetes, infant development (for those nursing mothers), chemotherapy side effects, portal vein hypertension (in cases of scarring of the liver or cirrhosis), exercise performance, anemia, mental performance, lack of sleep and post-surgical procedures to speed up recovery.
- ACE Inhibitors: Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are heart medications that dilate or widen your blood vessels to increase the amount of blood your heart is able to pump and lower your blood pressure.
- Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers: Constrict or narrow the blood vessels. They also decrease edema in the body by a mechanism that releases salt and fluid from the body.
- Antiarrhythmics: Keep the heart rhythms on track, caused by irregular electrical activity or nervous system communication to your heart.
- Antiplatelet Drugs: Prevent the formation of blood clots.
- Aspirin Therapy: Prevent and manage heart disease and stroke.
- Beta-Blocker Therapy: Treat hypertension or high blood pressure. They are a first-line therapy for congestive heart failure.
- Calcium Channel Blockers: Relax the blood vessels and increase the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. They also reduce the heart’s workload.
- Clot Buster Drugs: Thrombolytic therapy provided in a hospital through veins (intravenously or via an IV) to break up blood clots.
- Digoxin: Medication that helps an injured and/or weakened heart work more efficiently.
- Diuretics: Help your body release water and salt through the urine, allowing the heart to pump more easily and to control the blood pressure.
- Nitrates: Used in chest pain (angina) with coronary artery disease and help ease blockages of the heart’s blood vessels.
- Warfarin and other Blood Thinners: Prevent clots from forming.
- CardioPulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
- Stents: a small expandable tube that is inserted into your blood vessel to keep it open.
- Angioplasty: uses little cutting to open blocked heart arteries. Stents may be used or put into place at the same time.
- Bypass Surgery: creates new paths for blood to flow when the current pathway is blocked.
- Valve Disease Treatment: known also as balloon valvuloplasty, depending on your specific needs, it may involve debridement (or cleaning of debris such as calcium buildup, reshaping or transfer of components).
- Cardioversion: for arrhythmia, or when the heart changes its normal rhythm such as stopping or irregular patterns, it provides an electrical shock to reset the heart.
- Enhanced External Counter-Pulsation (EECP): uses several blood pressure cuffs to firmly but gently compress the blood vessels to boost blood flow to the heart. Each wave timed with the heartbeat.
- Pacemakers: sends electrical impulses to the heart muscle to maintain a reasonable rate and rhythm. Usually used in people experiencing fainting, congestive heart failure and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
- Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICD): an implanted device to help abnormal heart rhythms.
- Lead Extraction: a pacemaker or ICD delivers energy to the heart through wires called leads. A lead extraction is when one or more of those wires are removed, they may only be removed from inside the heart, not from outside the heart. This occurs during open heart surgery.
- Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD): basically a mechanical heart that is placed inside the chest to assist the heart to pump oxygen rich blood throughout the body.
- Heart Transplant: a diseased heart is removed and replaced with a healthy donor’s heart.
Conventional treatments that are generally prescribed for cardiovascular disease (currently by an MD or DO):
There are many ways to incorporate a healthy lifestyle with keeping in balance of your needs, your family’s needs and not burdening yourself with more things to do.
Dr. Cora Stover is a licensed naturopathic physician at ProNatural Physicians Group in Berlin and is accepting new patients. Call for an appointment at: 860-829-0707. To learn more about naturopathic medicine visit: ProNaturalPhysicians.com or look for ProNatural Physicians on FaceBook. ProNatural Physicians Group NDs are providers for most major insurance carriers.