Thursday, May 26, 2011

Women’s “Secret Killer” – and What You Can Do About It

This article will also be available on the Total Cleanse website

Women’s “Secret Killer” – and What You Can Do About It
Sarah Reid, RHNC

Women are known as the caretakers of everyone else – the stereotypical “wives and mothers” bundling up their kids at the slightest hint of snow, playing “doctor” to a household of flu-stricken people with bowls of chicken soup and ginger ale, and even the image of the clinical nurse come to mind. Try as we might, women are not completely invincible, though, and there are many situations that can knock even the strongest woman down. While not every factor in developing the condition known commonly as “heart disease” can be controlled, there are thankfully more than enough ways to reduce your risk.

The most common disease for women is Cardiovascular Disease (or CVD). Usually classified as a “man’s disease” when it comes to prevention marketing, it is a condition both genders need to pay strict attention to in today’s world. Only recently has it come to public light that CVD is in fact the #1 killer of women worldwide – in 2003 only 13% of those surveyed thought women were at risk – although it has held that title for decades. Poor lifestyle habits and stress from a multitude of sources play a huge role in the occurrence and severity of the condition. Also, studies have shown that women tend to “hold” onto stress from all aspects of life – even things far beyond their control such as global news events – and tend to develop and harbour guilty feelings about both shortcomings and successes (so-called “survivor guilt”).

While working on managing these feelings and “letting go” of past decisions is important, there are other physical things you can do as well. First, don’t smoke – and quit now if you do. Second-hand smoke can be an even worse toxin because the smoke and chemicals are not filtered (not to mention the bacteria from the smoker’s mouth). If you are addicted to tobacco, there are many products on the market that can help, and it is worth looking into an intensive full-body detoxification and rejuvenation protocol as well (speak to a nutritionist for specific guidance on herbs and supplements).

Keeping your weight in check with a healthy diet and exercise lessens the strain on your heart and lungs, and reduces the damage done by the excess activity the organs must do to compensate. Most fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which reduce the likelihood of developing what’s known as oxidized cholesterol in your blood and organs. While the two commonly known forms of the substance, LDL: “good” and HDL: “bad”, are constantly in flux throughout the body and are produced by the liver, oxidized cholesterol occurs when the liver is unable to fully destroy the molecules after they have completed their “task” of transporting lipoproteins to cell membranes. Instead, oxygen attaches and forms free-radical-like compounds – the basis of artery plaque formation. Getting a minimum of one serving of dark leafy green vegetables or cruciferous foods like broccoli daily (½ cup cooked or 2 cups raw) help supply the building blocks for artery and heart cell regeneration, as will the vitamins and minerals in unrefined grains.

Speaking with your doctor about your risk factors for heart disease may found a bit far-fetched if you’re already a generally healthy individual, but there can be underlying genetic and health conditions that can raise your risk of becoming a cardiac patient. If your parents, their siblings or your brothers or sisters developed CVD before age 55 (or for women, before menopause), you are of First Nations, African or South Asian descent, are overweight, have diabetes or high blood pressure, your risk of heart disease is higher and worth discussing further.

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About Me

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I started my "working life" as a holistic and allopathic nutritional consultant with a love of cooking. Teaching the value of wholesome meal choices to families became close to my heart after I battled a long history of struggles with weight and health, and the passion for teaching led me into where I am now. My blog, which focuses on "bringing good taste to healthier food" through creative use of whole grains, fresh produce and acknowledging the importance of the occasional treat, also features a wealth of "specialty diet" friendly recipes for gluten-, egg-, dairy- and sugar- tree nut-free items that everyone can enjoy without alienating those who need them.

Overall, I want to bring back the desire for good quality, homemade, (mostly) healthy food into the hearts and kitchens of families so that the next generation will be less box-reliant than mine. I firmly believe that any “homemade” food, even when labelled as "naughty", is a more wholesome treat than pre-packaged, cookie-cutter junk. With the knowledge of good food (and how to cook good food) as a base, a healthy lifestyle can follow, and then anything is possible!