When it comes to women’s heart health, there’s no way to sugar coat this one, but I hope that if you know you need to do something about your current health, you won’t bury your head in the sand, and that the following stats will galvanise you to take action.
Let’s start with the stats…
Cardiovascular disease (“CVD”) is an umbrella term that describes all diseases of the heart and circulation.
Coronary heart disease (“CHD”) is the most common type of CVD. It’s also the UK’s biggest killer. In the UK, one in eleven women die from CHD. CHD kills twice as many women in the UK as breast cancer (1). It is also the leading cause of death worldwide.
Your risk of CHD increases post menopause. This is thought to be due to a decline in cardio-protective oestrogen levels as women age.
Well, that all sounds a bit depressing…
I agree. Now there are some risk factors of CHD you can’t influence, such as your gender, age, family medical history and ethnicity (South Asian people living in the UK are one and a half times more likely to die from coronary heart disease before the age of 75 than the rest of the UK population) (2).
However, there are plenty of risk factors you bet you can influence:
- Being within a healthy weight range
- Managing high blood pressure
- Making sure you are physically active
- Lowering your risk of type II diabetes
Food also has a role to play in keeping your heart healthy.
Here are our top 5 food tips for heart health:
- Omega-3 – this is an all-round “good guy” when it comes to your health due to its anti-inflammatory properties. When it comes to your heart health, this essential fat has a role to play in cardiovascular function and promotes blood vessel dilation and anti-coagulant effects. Sources include fatty fish, such as salmon, anchovy or sardine. However due to environmental pollution, on a daily basis a fish oil supplement is preferred. Aim for 2-3g of omega-3 fish oil per day. If you are vegetarian / vegan, try flax seed and walnuts as an alternative.
- Up your fibre intake – There is strong evidence that eating fibre is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Most of us consume around just 18g of fibre per day, when in fact we should be aiming for more like 30g (3). Ignore refined carbohydrates and processed food – these are low fibre sources. Go for whole-food sources, such as legumes, vegetables and fruit. Nuts and seeds can help too.
- Say ahoy to soy – soy foods may help reduce blood lipids, lower blood cholesterol levels, blood pressure and homocysteine (an elevated homocysteine level has been shown to be cardiovascular risk factor). Select organic (non-genetically modified) fermented varieties of soy, such as tempeh or miso. Note: If you are soy sensitive, have hypothyroidism, menopausal, taking HRT or have oestrogen-receptive breast cancer, you may need to adjust your soy intake.
- Up your Vits C + E – these antioxidants are thought to keep arteries supple and the heart healthy. NHS recommends the following daily amounts for women: 40mg of vitamin C per day and 3mg of vitamin E. Sources of vitamin C include: broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, grapefruit, kiwis, lemons, limes, oranges, peppers, strawberries, tomatoes and watercress. Vitamin E sources include: asparagus, Brussel sprouts, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, peas, sweet potatoes and watercress, as well as seeds, nuts and their oils. Also tuna, salmon and sardines.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) – This antioxidant is a key nutrient when it comes to taking care of your heart and in a number of other bodily processes. CoQ10 production declines with age from around your 20s. Certain medications, for example statins, will also reduce your levels of CoQ10. Best dietary sources of CoQ10 include: meat (beef and pork), poultry and fish. Smaller amounts of CoQ10 can be found in nuts, seeds and wholegrains.
What to do next
If you would like to connect for a complimentary consultation or just a brief chat about improving your wellbeing through nutrition, then call us on 07946 272615 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wendy Goldthorp is the Founder and Director of The FIT Movement and is a women’s health and wellness specialist based in Teignmouth, Devon and is also a Level 1 Precision Nutrition coach. She works with pregnant, post natal and midlife (peri- to menopausal) women to improve their wellbeing through exercise and nutrition. Wendy is available to work with clients in person in one of her classes and online via Skype.
This article is only intended to be general advice and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent health problems – nor is it intended to replace the advice of a qualified medical practitioner or health practitioner. Always consult your physician or qualified health professional on any matters regarding your health or on any opinions expressed in this article.
(1) Source: British Heart Foundation Factsheet – accessed 13 February 2017
(2) Source: https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/risk-factors/family-history – accessed 13 February 2017
(3) Source: NHS Choices – accessed 17 February 2017