According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the no. 1 killer of women, “kills more women than all forms of cancer combined, and more women than men”. Similarly, on an article published in the Journal of Women’s Health, it is stated that female cardiovascular disease mortality rate remains ‘disproportionately high and the root causes underlying this inequity remain speculative”. What can women do to turn this around? Fortunately, there are many things that women can do, please keep reading to find out.
To start our discussion, I would like to mention the work of Dr. Stephen Sinatra, M.D. who has specialized in preventive cardiology for more that 30 years. In his book “Reverse Heart Disease Now” he talks about a pattern he has observed through his career: “women have always received less treatment, and are more likely to be written off by physicians as having anxiety or psychological issues… because her symptoms are often less definite or dramatic than those of men, her doctor may underestimate them or fail to order follow-up tests… While in men symptoms might be arm or chest pain, for a woman the symptoms might include discomfort in the chest that mimics indigestion, or it might be pain in the neck that radiates into the jaw or profound fatigue. Many women even will write off their symptoms as the flu” He explains that even after many years as cardiologist and being aware of the unusual symptoms displayed by many women, he still finds that heart disease in women can be confusing and women may more often experience non classic symptoms of a stroke than men. So what can women do to prevent this? I think the answer is to stay informed and know their body. We need to remember that our health is our responsibility, it is not our doctor’s responsibility, even though there might be wonderful doctors out there who really care for us.
In what follows, we will discuss what I believe could be the contributing factors that make heart disease in women more prevalent than in men. Some of them might be so obvious that they can be easily overlooked. These contributing factors are: pregnancy, excess estrogen and menopause.
Pregnancy as a risk factor
Pregnancy is a very stressful time in a woman’s life. Aside from all the changes the body has to go through, the mother has to provide all the nutrition the baby needs to develop correctly. That means that if the mother is not healthy enough and the baby is going to take everything it needs from her body, this can leave her vulnerable and nutritionally deficient. To explain what I mean, I would like to quote Dr. Joel Wallach in his book “Epigenetics” where he states: “Life does not begin at conception, it begins in the 23 chromosomes of the father and the 23 chromosomes of the mother … it is imperative for the DNA to constantly have access to all 90 essential nutrients (60 minerals, 16 vitamins, 12 amino acids and 3 fatty acids) and each one must be available in optimal amounts and in the proper ratios to each other” Under ideal circumstances, the mother will be healthy enough to provide for herself and her baby the nutrition needed, but in today’s world that is almost impossible.
I believe most of us do not get the essential nutrients our body needs in normal circumstances, much less under extraordinary circumstances like is the case of pregnancy. Unless the mother supplements before, during and after pregnancy, she can run into high risks of nutritional deficiencies that could affect her heart health later in life. This is topic that I believe does not get enough attention, one proof of this is that cravings during pregnancy are still considered ‘normal’ but are a clear sign of nutritional deficiencies. Something else that is alarming is the fact that the mother’s brain shrinks during pregnancy if she does not eat enough essential fatty acids.
Another risk factor that I think is significant in women in their child bearing years is that they lose important minerals during their monthly cycle. An example is magnesium, which is essential for heart health and if not replenished can compromise her health. If you find yourself craving chocolate or have restless leg syndrome, it might be a sign that you are deficient in magnesium. 1000-2000 mg of magnesium glycinate, with calcium and vitamin K2, before going to sleep will not only take care of this but will also relax you.
The heart of the matter
The second risk factor in heart disease in women is one that might not seem to be related and can be easily overlooked. What I am referring to is estrogen. Estrogen is a stress hormone both men and women make from cholesterol, but women have more of this inflammatory hormone than men do. Estrogen is obviously important and has functions in the body, it regulates many chemical reactions and supports the body in times of stress. But there is a negative side to it that needs to be addressed. According to pharmacist Ben Fuchs, estrogen is a very potent hormone that is active in very small amounts, this is significant because it means that estrogen has to be broken down, processed correctly and eliminated from the body through the gallbladder, liver, digestive system and via the activity of probiotics. According to him, a toxic overload of estrogen is the reason why women have more heart disease than men. This means that if we have any digestive disorder, liver or gallbladder health issues, or the wrong kind of bacteria in the gut, this toxic estrogen will build up in the body and create havoc.
Let us see how excess estrogen can become a health issue:
- Estrogen reduces the tone and strength of blood vessels, thickens and clots the blood. Women on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) have higher rates of blood clots. A study published in Medical Care (May 2009) examined the relationship between HRT use and heart failures in the entire US population.The results established that “Decreased HRT use was associated with a decrease in the incidence of acute myocardial infarction [heart attack]”
- Estrogen increases the risk for cancer, specially endiomitrial cancer, ovarian and breast cancer.
- Estrogen turns on the growth of breast tissue (this means cysts, fibroids and even tumors).
- Estrogen increases the chance of auto-immune diseases and adds an additional burden to the stress response. (Estrogen is pro-anxiety).
- Estrogen stimulates contractions and spasms.
- Estrogen opposes the action of insulin, making it harder to control blood sugar levels. This means that the higher the estrogen levels, the higher the insulin levels will be. This translates into a higher risk for diabetes, insulin resistance, elevations of blood insulin all of which can precede other health problems like cancer and heart disease.
- Excess estrogen excretes zinc from the body and causes accumulation of copper. Zinc is needed for many chemical reactions in the body including sugar metabolism, growth and repair, hormonal balance, immune system, slowing down the aging process (wrinkles, dark spots, osteoporosis, etc.)
- Estrogen will “restrain the breakdown of bone tissue” according to Dr. John Lee in his book “What your doctor may not tell you about menopause”. This looks like something beneficial because there is less bone tissue breaking in the short term, but in the long term it will prevent new bone tissue from forming resulting in weaker bones.
- Estrogen reduces cell respiration.
- Estrogen encourages water and salt retention and weight gain.
- Estrogen is anti-libido, slowing the sex drive and it is the hormone of birth control (women with high estrogen will find it more difficult to get pregnant)
With so many side effects, I am sure you would like to know how to get rid of estrogen toxicity in the body. There are many ways we can do this, but since excess estrogen is broken down and eliminated first via the gallbladder, liver, digestive system and with the activity of probiotics the first and most important way to accomplish this would be to improve the health of these organs:
- The gallbladder is essential for health, it is responsible for helping the body digest necessary fats, minerals and fat soluble vitamins our heart needs so much. Since estrogen is stored in the fatty part of cells you need a working gallbladder to get rid of excess estrogen. Nowadays, who doesn’t have a digestive disorder? What is more, gallbladder surgeries are big business. According to womanshealth.com “Gallstones affect approximately one in ten Americans, and are associated with approximately 3,000 deaths annually, 800,000 hospitalizations and over 500,000 people undergo surgery for gallstones annually”. If this is your case, you are going to want to keep reading, because without a gallbladder, you will need to take extra care of your body. If you are lucky to still have your gallbladder but have gallstones, you might want to do a cleanse to get rid of them before they become painful. You can read all about it in Andreas Moritz’ book “The Liver and Gallbladder Miracle Cleanse: An All-Natural, At-Home Flush to Purify and Rejuvenate Your Body”
- You can also support your liver‘s detoxifying properties by using a well formulated wild crafted blend of herbs that work synergistically to assist your hard working liver. The “Liver Support Compound” from Healthy Hearts Club is an excellent combination of herbs to detoxify your liver.
- Then you can improve your digestion with bile salts, digestive enzymes, lecithin and apple cider vinegar after all your meals.
- Since excess estrogen is cleared up by the good bacteria in our gut, probiotics are a must. Having the wrong kind of bacteria in the gut, can create havoc and sabotage our efforts to get our liver and digestive system in pristine condition. You can further support your digestive system with fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, etc. You can visit this web site www.culturesforhealth.com for a free e-books on how to prepare them at home.
This 4-step approach will not only help you remove excess estrogen, it will also improve your overall health which will support your heart health. I believe it is essential because without a healthy digestive system we will not be able to digest, absorb and assimilate the nutrients our heart needs.
To further assist your body in the elimination of excess estrogen you can use:
- Vitamin E, 400 mg of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols a day, taken together with selenium (around 400 mcg/day).
- Cayenne is a great cleanser for the body. You can find it as an active ingredient in high concentrations in many of the Heart and Body products, namely the “Heart and Body Extract”, the “Bone and Joint Extract“, the “Kidney/Bladder Extract”. The “Blood Purifier” is great for purifying the blood.
The thyroid connection
Iodine is a great way to support excess estrogen detoxification apart from being an essential mineral. According to the W.H.O., iodine deficiency is one of the most marked mineral deficiencies all over the world. Breast cancer, endomitrial cancer, prostate and thyroid disease are all signs of iodine deficiency. The “Heart and Body Extract” is a wonderful source of kelp, rich in iodine. According to Ben Fuchs, when it comes to protection from excess estrogen, there is no mineral that is more important than iodine. Apart from this, iodine is critical for mental functioning and according to the “American Journal of Clinical nutrition” iodine deficiency can prevent children from attaining their full intellectual potential. Signs of iodine deficiency in children are cretinism, brain issues, disorder in walking and growth. Expecting and lactating mothers should supplement with this essential mineral so the babies can get it through her, either in the womb or breast milk. According to the W.H.O., 1/3 of children in the whole world are deficient in iodine and iodine is the most preventable cause of brain damage in children and lower IQs in adults.
Iodine will not only protect you from excess estrogen, it will also protect you from bromine, that is toxic to our body. Bromine is found in fire retardant materials like mattresses, carpets, clothing, it is also used to bleach flour, cereals, pastries, bread, pasta, and in soda drinks it is called B.V.O. (brominated vegetable oil) which is used as an emulsifier. What happens when you are deficient in iodine is the body will absorb bromine instead because it looks a lot like iodine. However, when iodine is present in our diet, the body will displace bromine and eliminate it from our glands. If you start breaking out after beginning your supplementation of iodine, it just means your body is getting rid of the toxic bromine and replacing it with iodine, it is not that iodine is bad!
Iodine is essential and without it, we would die. Iodine can also help you get rid of fluoride, the substance that is supposed to take care of cavities. In turns out that fluoride is toxic. Fluoride can calcify both the pineal gland and the thyroid gland. The pineal gland is the master gland in the body, it produces two very important hormones, serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a hormone of alertness the body releases with light, melatonin is a hormone that helps you sleep and it is released with darkness. If you are deficient in iodine, your body will absorb the fluoride if that is all it has. And if you are drinking tap water or using fluoridated toothpaste, you are probably getting a lot of fluoride too. If you cannot use a water filter to remove the fluoride from your drinking water, make sure you saturate your thyroid with iodine.
Two thirds of the iodine in our body is stored in the thyroid and it is an essential component of thyroid hormone. Since the thyroid regulates EVERYTHING else in the body, if it is not working properly this will be the beginning of every degenerative disease there is, including heart disease, muscle and nerve problems, osteoporosis, etc.
If this was not enough, iodine keeps all the glands healthy: adrenal glands, pituitary glands and the thymus gland (our immune system gland). For diabetics, iodine plays an important role in the health of the pancreatic health and it is very important for the health of the liver, like in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which is so prevalent nowadays, even in young children.
Iodine prevents breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men and can help against fibromyalgia. All this is despite the fact that health authorities claim we get enough iodine from iodized salt.
When it comes to iodine absorption, as with any other minerals, you need to have a healthy gallbladder, liver and digestive system all of which like we said before are necessary for absorbing fats too. So, you see, the gallbladder is necessary for the health of your heart and your entire body. Without being able to absorb fats (essential fatty acids) and minerals (iodine, calcium, zinc, strontium, magnesium, selenium) and fatty vitamins (D, E, A, K), your heart will suffer.
Know your hormones, save your heart
Another strategy to balance excess estrogen involves what is called “homeostasis”, which simply means “balance”. In this sense, health could be explained as a balance of two opposites, and disease as a lack of balance in the body. You can think of it as a thermostat that keeps the temperature in your house the same, without up or downs. In the body this balance is accomplished by the work of hormones: they regulate everything and they must co-exist in balance in the body or disease will be the result. Some examples of this balance are: Serotonin-melatonin, insulin-glucagon, estrogen-progesterone, testosterone-cortisol. For the purpose of our discussion we will focus on estrogen and progesterone.
All the negative effects of estrogen we discussed before can be balanced with estrogen’s partner: progesterone. While estrogen is a stress hormone, progesterone is a relaxation hormone and balances everything estrogen does in the body. Let us see how:
- Progesterone is the hormone of pregnancy (progesterone means ‘pro-gestation’), Progesterone keeps tissue from growing too fast, protects against fibroids, cysts and tumors. In an article of the European Journal of Cancer, progesterone is said to prohibit the proliferation of breast cancer tumor cells.
- Progesterone restores blood vessels tone by strengthening them and keeps the blood moving smoothly.
- Progesterone helps the body process sugar, supports the activity of insulin so the pancreas does not have to pump out so much and progesterone can help also reduce the toxicity of too much insulin.
- Progesterone helps the body store zinc.
- Progesterone can actually help the body form new bone tissue.
- Progesterone relaxes the body and strengthens the immune system. It can also be very helpful for auto-immune diseases of the nerves, specially multiple sclerosis. Women are more likely to develop these kind of diseases than men.
- Progesterone is one of the most important fat loss hormones the body makes, it is a diuretic and helps your body process salt.
- Progesterone is known to be one of the most thermogenic hormones there is because it increases metabolism. By increasing body heat and metabolism, progesterone will help you lose weight, also improve the circulatory system by preventing blood clotting.
- Progesterone stimulates the sex drive.
- Progesterone has a relaxing effect in the body.
- Progesterone improves cell respiration and oxygen utilization.
What are the best sources of progesterone? This might surprise you, but mistletoe, known since ancient times, is a powerful stimulator and activator of progesterone. In an article published by the University of Adelaide Australia in November 2012, a study conducted on mistletoe found it to be a very powerful anticancer compound, because of its progesterone stimulating properties. In this article, mistletoe was recommended as an alternative to chemotherapy in colon cancer because of its efficiency in destroying colon cancer cells and being gentler on the intestinal cells than chemotherapy. While mistletoe has already been recognized as an alternative treatment for chemotherapy in Europe, in the U.S. is not very well known, but if you are reading this you can now take advantage of the “Heart and Body Extract” for its progesterone up-regulating properties, anti cancer as well as many other health benefits like improved circulation, relaxation, etc.
Menopause and heart disease
Apart from pregnancy and estrogen, there is another stress factor women have to deal with that can increases their risks of heart disease: menopause. Menopause can be a very stressing time in a women’s life if it is not understood. The changes that occur in the woman’s body during peri-menopause and menopause can be explained as follows: the reproductive system stops producing the sex hormones we discussed earlier in detail, estrogen and progesterone and the adrenals then pick up the slack by becoming the body’s only producers of estrogen and progesterone, thus replacing the ovaries. This is very important to understand and can be the difference between a miserable menopause and one without symptoms.
The adrenals are two small organs sitting on top of the kidneys (ad-renal means close to the kidneys) known as our stress glands, which means they help our body handle stress. During menopause your already hard working adrenals have a new job to do: make estrogen and progesterone, and that can burden them even more. Symptoms like insomnia, hot flashes, anxiety, aging skin, dark spots, wrinkles etc are not a ‘normal’ part of your new life, but a manifestation of an excessive stress response. You could say the adrenals are screaming for help!. This excessive stress response I believe is another reason women have a higher risk for heart disease than men.
However, you can support your adrenals and spare yourself from having all the unpleasant symptoms of menopause. So many doctors put menopausal women on HRT claiming it is bio-identical or natural, but according to pharmacist Ben Fuchs there is not such a thing. What is more, HRT can be another big stress for women going through menopause because of the estrogen overload, proof of this is the many side effects HRT has, including blood clots. Instead, he recommends supporting your adrenals so you can take a load off these hard working organs.
What is important to understand about the adrenals is that they are connected to the thyroid, so by helping the adrenals you are helping your thyroid too because they work together. When the adrenals are overloaded, they can slow down or even shut down the thyroid, which we have already explained, is the regulator of EVERYTHING else in the body. We can support our thyroid like we explained before, but because now the adrenals become a huge player, we also need to support the adrenals. This is so very important in my opinion, because if these two organs, the thyroid and the adrenals are left un cared, it can put a tremendous burden in the heart, causing high blood pressure and other problems. How can you help your adrenals then?
- First of all sea salt can be very beneficial, the adrenals love minerals.
- The B vitamins, all of them work as a team, but vitamin B 5 and B 12 are specially important for the adrenals. The “Female Balance Extract” from Healthy Hearts Club is an excellent source of biotin, B 5 and B 3, take it together with some B-100 capsules for extra support.
- Vitamin C is very important for adrenals too, take several grams a day in divided doses.
- Magnesium glycinate, 1000 mg to 2000 mg. This one will relax you too so take it before going to sleep, together with the “Calcium Extract” from Healthy Hearts Club and some vitamin K 2 (1-5 grams).
- Very important too for adrenal health is cholesterol, which is the raw material the body uses to make many important hormones like: estrogen, progesterone, pregnenolone, DHEA, cortisol and Vitamin D. If you are under a lot of stress, cholesterol will be used primarily to make a stress hormone called cortisol, so your body will not be able to make enough of the estrogen and progesterone it needs to get you through menopause without symptoms (insomnia, hot flashes, anxiety, loss of libido, accelerated aging, dark spots on the skin, wrinkles, dryness…, all of the things that are considered ‘normal’ part of aging). Cortisol is a stress hormone that opposes several other hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Lowering cortisol means reducing stress, relaxing, deep breathing, eliminating problem foods, keeping blood sugar stable by eliminating sugar from the diet and fast burning carbohydrates like pasta, bread, cereals, cakes, candies and avoiding hypoglycemia by eating more protein. Something very important to understand about the nervous system is that it is highly electrical, which means that it depends on electrical energy flowing smoothly. Stress acts like an electrical glitch. Since the heart and the brain are electrical organs, stress can affect both. Thereby the importance of relaxing for heart and brain health. There is nothing more stressing to the body than sugar, sugar is a toxin and it interrupts the flow of electricity in the body, it also makes tiny capillaries ‘explode’ which is the reason diabetics go blind!
If you follow these easy steps you will take a load off the adrenal glands, support the thyroid and in turn help your heart. The “Stress Extract” from the Healthy Hearts Club is an excellent combination of herbs (including mistletoe) that will also help you with your stress levels and help you get a restful sleep.
To sum up, women run a higher risk for heart disease than men. Pregnancy and lack of nutrition, excess estrogen, HRT, peri-menopause and menopause without proper nutrition can all become the contributing factors for heart disease. There are many things women can do to take care of themselves…Love your body and your heart will take care of you.