Aleksandra Niedzwiecki, PhD
A 1995 Gallup poll showed that one third of family physicians and 80 per cent of women in North America are not aware that heart disease kills more women than any other health problem.
A 1995 Gallup poll showed that one third of family physicians and 80 percent of women in North America are not aware that heart disease kills more women than any other health problem. This is a consequence of decades-long disinterest in female aspects of heart disease. Although they now receive more attention, we must realize that women’s heart problems have become a marketable issue aiming at profits rather than cure or prevention. Therefore, it is important that we learn more about our bodies and about natural ways to protect our hearts so we will not become the victims of commercial greed.
Most women who die suddenly from a heart attack are postmenopausal and had no previous symptoms. Statistics show that one woman in 10 aged 45 to 64 has some form of cardiovascular disease. After age 70 a heart attack affects one of every three women, while breast cancer, with which most women are concerned, is responsible for one out of every 27 deaths in women.
The Female Symptoms
Heart disease develops silently for decades–you may not be aware of it until you experience a heart attack. Often women may not have typical symptoms. Not knowing that they are at risk, they ignore the signs. Instead of chest pain (it imitates heartburn) women may feel discomfort in the shoulders or back, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, unexplained anxiety or fatigue. Such symptoms don’t indicate a definite heart problem but should be checked by a physician. This is especially important for women who are postmenopausal or diabetic, have a family history of heart disease or who smoke. A heart scan (UCT), which can detect calcified arterial deposits before any symptoms appear, is also helpful.
Many conventional therapies for heart disease are ineffective or even harmful when applied to women. Medical reports caution that women respond differently to thrombolytic therapy (dissolving blood clots), angioplasty and even such diagnostic techniques as a stress test. Women’s physiology is so unlike men’s that even our response to dietary changes differ. For instance, women limiting their intake of saturated fats such as butter often experience an increase, not a lowering, of cholesterol.
A Real Cause of Heart Disease
The key to a sound heart is found in healthy collagen and building strong blood vessels that can resist cholesterol buildup. A few years ago, Matthias Rath, MD, discovered that high cholesterol is the consequence, not the cause of heart disease. The actual cause is the weakening of the vascular wall by a long-term deficiency of vitamin C and other nutrients. Too little vitamin C causes vascular cracks and lesions. Then cholesterol enters to repair and patch the wall and with time, atherosclerotic plaques develop that cause heart attacks.
Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen, a key material of blood vessels, which makes it critical for cardiovascular health. Most animals produce Vitamin C in large amounts; humans, however, have lost this ability and are prone therefore to atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes.
Dr Rath’s cellular medicine approach has been confirmed by clinical data demonstrating that essential nutrients can slow the growth of calcified atherosclerotic deposits and even reverse them. Healing the vascular wall naturally has also decreased cholesterol levels in many patients.
Instead of reaching for the real cause of heart disease we continue to spend billions of dollars on cholesterol treatments and to mastering various surgical interventions. Although this "health through the symptoms" approach drives million-dollar profits for the pharmaceutical and food industries and sets a basis for professional careers, it does not help cure our health problems.
Make sure that your diet is rich in collagen-building amino acids, such as lysine and proline. Lysine also works as a "Teflon" agent to prevent cholesterol build-up in the artery walls. This amino acid cannot be produced in our body and since it is usually rich in meat it can be low in vegetarian diets (vegetarians can use soy as a good source of lysine or take supplements). Among other nutrients, daily supplementation with B-vitamins and folic acid is important for women, particularly those using hormonal contraceptives. Various clinical data confirm that these nutrients are important in keeping the homocysteine blood level at check, thereby preventing damage to the blood vessel walls by these molecules.
Healthy arteries also need copper and the antioxidant protection offered by vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium and a plethora of natural substances contained in fruits and vegetables. The value of vitamin E in heart disease has been widely documented and many doctors recommend this nutrient to their patients. In selecting a nutrient program it is important to remember that nutrients work in teams and their synergistic effect is more beneficial than that of a single nutrient.
Today cardiovascular disease is preventable and manageable through dietary supplementation and life style changes. The popular perception that physically active people live longer has been confirmed in many studies, showing that a risk of heart attack significantly decreases with even moderate regular exercise such as walking. It is never too late to start.
A few words about estrogen, which is heavily promoted for the prevention of heart disease. More and more clinical data conclude that estrogen should not be recommended to all postmenopausal women for therapy and prevention of coronary heart disease. The recently published Heart and Estrogen/Progestin Replacement study of 2,763 women and a Wake Forest University study led by Dr Harrington showed no benefits of these hormones in slowing down the progression of heart disease or decreasing numbers of heart attacks. Estrogen effects, however, are obvious when it comes to increased risk for breast and endometrial cancers, blood clotting and gallbladder disease.
Today, with a new understanding of the causes of heart disease we have a chance to treat and prevent it naturally by getting into the "heart" of the problem instead of mending its various manifestations.
Your Heart's Best Friend
Vitamin C forms the basis of any cardiovascular health program. An epi-demiological study of 11,000 Americans showed that women taking at least 500 milligrams of vitamin C could lower their chance of a heart attack by 30 percent. This vitamin is especially important for menopausal women, because the decline in estrogen has a negative impact on collagen and therefore on the blood vessels, skin and bones. Also, women who smoke, use hormonal contraceptives or who must cope with stress need extra vitamin C because of the body's increased demands for this nutrient.