Related Topics: Features, Heart Disease, Menopause

Eating For A Healthy Heart At Menopause

Want to know how to avoid heart disease and prevent a heart attack? Check your progesterone levels to protect heart health and make sure you have all these foods on your shopping list.

AnnA Rushton

Are you worried about cancer? Naturally, most women are, but did you know that more women will die from heart disease, than from all cancers combined?

Heart disease is the number one killer of women. Once you reach the age of 50, nearly half of all deaths in women are due to some form of cardiovascular disease.  That is why it is associated with menopause and the risk increases also for  young women who have undergone early or surgical menopause.

Are you at risk?

Although heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women as a sex we tend not to recognise the signs as easily in ourselves, or pay them as much attention.

Below are the common symptoms of a heart attack shared by both genders but women are more likely than men to experience unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances and anxiety, as well as throat, jaw and neck discomfort during a heart attack

  • Chest discomfort
  • Arm discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating and clammy skin
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain and feelings of indigestion

The most effective window for treatment occurs during the first 60 minutes of symptoms so don’t dismiss them but get help immediately – it may be a false alarm but being embarrassed is better than being at risk of a heart attack. There are of course factors will will increase that risk such as these:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL (low density lipoproteins) or “bad” cholesterol
  • Low HDL (high density lipoproteins) or “good” cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Early hysterectomy
  • Menopause

How to avoid heart disease

Clearly if you have any of the above factors you will be more motivated to make changes, but one of the simplest ways is to address those things that are simple to fix and the major ones are the amount of progesterone in relation to oestrogen that you have (oestrogen dominance) and how proactive you are in having a heart-healthy diet.

The role of progesterone is to protect your heart: it helps in the burning of fats for energy and has an anti-inflammatory effect. These actions are protective  against coronary heart disease. Progesterone is also effective at relaxing coronary arteries which have gone into spasm and as this is the cause of most menopausal women’s heart attacks this is obviously important factor .

The fruit factor: not just any fruit but in particular flavonoid-rich ones such as strawberries and blueberries may cut the risk of heart attack in women by a third.   Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health developed a study to analyze a specific sub-class of flavonoids, called anthocyanins, that has been shown to help dilate arteries, counter the buildup of plaque and provide other cardiovascular benefits. Both blueberries and strawberries  contain high levels of anthocyanins and  lead study author, Dr. Eric Rimm stated that this simple dietary change could have a significant impact on prevention efforts and the sooner the better so get your teenage daughter hooked now.

Carrots, sweet potato, and tomatoes are also high on the heart-healthy shopping list as a Finnish medical study tested blood levels of lycopene, alpha and beta-carotene, retinol, and alpha-tocopherol, then followed up over several years.  They found that low levels of  lycopene and beta-carotene increase the risk of acute myocardial infarction and although this was in men only, no reason not to extend it for women too.

Tomatoes are best cooked tomatoes whether grilled, baked or in your favourite Italian tomato sauce but carrots give you more beta carotene when raw. Sweet potato again is best cooked and make sure you get sweet potato (bright orange inside) rather than yam.

Vitamin D has had a lot of press recently and certainly is essential for heart health. New research suggests that  low levels may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. You can supplement, but even a small amount of sunshine daily can give you enough – even in winter – and gives you the extra benefit of fresh air.

Further reading:

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