Everyone knows that heart disease is the #1 killer in the USA, but most people don’t realize that it is also the most common cause for death in women.
In fact, for every woman who dies of breast cancer, six women die from cardiovascular disease.
Not only do women have different hormone profiles than men, women develop heart disease differently too. In men, plaque blockage plays a big role in heart disease and for men at high risk of a heart attack, statin (cholesterol-lowering) medications are useful.
Yet in women, heart disease is strongly associated with artery spasm and clotting issues, and thus far, none of the national studies using cholesterol medications for women have ever shown that these drugs work. There are a few women who may still benefit from these types of medications but other treatments are simply more important.
So what is effective for women?
The answer lies in a new breakthrough program that focuses on lifestyle changes that improve the function of our arteries to prevent and reverse cardiovascular disease.
The first step is my favorite: adding five new categories of food that nourish your heart…
• Heart Healing Food #1: Fabulous Fiber.
If you only measured one nutrient, I would want you to pick FIBER. Fiber is the roughage that comes with vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Fiber alone does nearly miraculous things – it suppresses appetite (reducing weight), improves your blood sugar and cholesterol profile, decreases inflammation, and slows aging.
In short, fiber is awesome! Your challenge is to work up to 30 grams of fiber every day.
• Heart Healing Food #2: Healthy Fat.
You don’t need to follow a low fat diet, but you do need to eat healthy fats. Clinical studies show that enjoying fats from seafood, virgin olive oil, and nuts decreases your risk for a heart attack and stroke, without causing weight gain. Please enjoy fats from avocado, seeds, and dark chocolate, too. These healthy fats are critical for your brain.
• Heart Healing Food #3: Lean Protein
Enjoy lean, not mean protein. Mean protein comes from commercial fatty meats and fatty dairy that is loaded with bad saturated fat, and often, lots of hormones and pesticides, too. Lean protein includes wild seafood, such as grilled salmon, steamed clams and mussels. For animal protein, focus on free-range, organic-fed options, like eggs, chicken and roasted Cornish game hens (be sure to add extra herbs for both flavor and health). And don’t forget protein and fiber-rich beans, which have been shown to improve blood sugar and cholesterol profiles, and are the most powerful anti-aging food ever tested.
• Heart Healing Food #4: Beneficial Beverages
Start with pure water, at least 4 cups per day. For something with caffeine, green tea is the best, or you can enjoy 1-3 cups of coffee per day because in moderation those tea and coffee pigments are good for you. All unsweetened tea is great, and mint tea is lovely too.
Don’t forget my favorite breakfast, a fiber and protein-rich smoothie. In my book, The 30-Day Heart Tune Up, I explain how to make a smoothie that only takes 2 minutes and includes protein powder, frozen-organic cherries or blueberries, almond milk, and chia seeds. It is delicious, and you’ll be satisfied and revved up all morning!
• Heart Healing Food #5: Fantastic Flavors
You may wonder if flavors are worthy of being a food group, but who would argue about making dark chocolate a food group? Dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa mass) is great for your heart and brain, and I recommend eating or drinking some form of it every day. Avoid milk chocolate though, as that is just candy, and has little to no nutritional value.
Spices and herbs also make your food taste great, and Italian herbs, curry spices, garlic, and hot chili spices all block arterial plaque growth, slow aging, rev your metabolism, and lower inflammation.
By adding these 5 food groups daily, you will nourish your heart, reduce your risk for a future heart attack and stroke, and find yourself becoming younger, trimmer, fitter, mentally sharper, and healthier every day.
To Your Health and Bon Appétit!
Steven Masley, M.D. is a physician, nutritionist, author, speaker, award-winning patient educator, and a fellow with the American Heart Association. His passion is empowering people to achieve optimal health through comprehensive medical assessments and lifestyle changes. Dr. Masley is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida, and he teaches programs at Eckerd College and the University of Tampa.
Dr. Masley has published several health books, including The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up, Ten Years Younger, and numerous scientific articles. His work has been featured on PBS, the Discovery Channel, the Today Show, plus over 250 media interviews. For more information, visit www.drmasley.com