Posted on: 27.12.2022 Posted by: Drlark Comments: 0

June 11, 2004


Heart Health

More women die every year from heart disease

than all forms of cancer combined, and yet we are not as vigilant

about protecting our hearts as we are about protecting our breasts.

What are we waiting for?

Protecting yourself against heart disease is as

simple as making changes in your diet, taking certain nutrients,

and incorporating stress reduction techniques and exercise into

your day.

The most common cause of heart attacks in women

is coronary artery disease, a narrowing of one or more of the arteries

that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. This narrowing is due

to the formation of plaque in the arteries. Plaque is a thick,

waxy, yellowish substance consisting primarily of cholesterol, smooth

muscle cells, and foam cells. Just as the gunk clogging your drain

won’t let water flow down, the plaque clogging your arteries won’t

let blood flow, starving the heart and eventually leading to a heart


The smoking gun

Are you holding a cigarette? Smoking narrows the diameter

of your blood vessels and impairs your circulation,

which increases your risk for heart disease. As a woman

who smokes you will also enter menopause two to three

years earlier than your friend who doesn’t smoke.

There are three key areas you can control that

contribute to coronary artery disease:

1. Cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a yellowish, waxy substance your liver produces to

help make hormones and vitamin D. (You also get cholesterol through

the foods you eat, primarily dairy, meat and fish.) Because it is

waxy, and your blood is water-based, your body attaches it to different

compounds to transport it through the bloodstream. The two main

compounds are low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the “bad”

cholesterol), and high-density lipoprotein (HDL, the “good”

cholesterol). HDL helps take excess cholesterol back to the liver,

where your body gets rid of it through bile. Cholesterol that is

attached to LDL, however, can build up and damage the inner lining

of blood vessel walls, causing plaque to form, much like the plaque

on your teeth. This plaque then narrows the blood vessel walls,

restricting the flow of oxygen- and nutrient-carrying blood.

The key is trying to keep your HDL levels high

and your LDL levels low.

2. Platelets.

These small round bodies produced in bone marrow and stored in the

spleen make up much of your blood. If your platelets are excessively

sticky, it becomes easier for blood clots to form. Then these platelets

can stick to arteries where plaque has formed, eventually blocking

the vessel wall and leading to a heart attack.

3. Triglycerides.

Triglycerides are the form in which your body stores fat. If you

have elevated triglycerides (a level of 190 mg/dL or greater), you

run a greater risk of coronary artery disease.

Lipoprotein analysis

Call your doctor and ask her to do a blood test for

HDL, LDL, and total cholesterol. Here is how to interpret

the results:

Total cholesterol levels should be less than

180 mg/dL.

LDL levels should be less than 130 mg/dL.

HDL levels should be about 55 mg/dL; HDL levels

less than 35 mg/dL are a risk factor for women.

Also: The ratio of LDL to HDL is important and

should be no higher than 4:1. If your HDL is 30 and

your LDL is 150 then your ratio is 5:1, which puts you

in the high-risk category.

REMEMBER: You want your

HDL level to be high and your LDL level to be low because

they perform different tasks in the body. HDL is responsible

for getting cholesterol to the liver where it can be

broken down and excreted. High LDL levels mean more

“bad cholesterol” in the blood than can be

efficiently transported out.

Read More on Heart Health:

Getting Started

Assessing Your Heart Health

Different Gender, Different Symptoms

Quiz: What Is Your Risk of Heart Disease?

Keep it SIMPLE Heart tip — Fiber, Fiber, Fiber

Nutritional Therapies

Heart Healthy Nutrients

Foods That Help Your Heart, Foods That Hurt It

Mineral Deficiencies Lead to Heart Problems

Complementary Therapies

Flapping Wings Exercise

Think With Your Heart



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