While there are many heart disease risk factors that affect men and women equally, there are four that affect women more than men. Being mindful of these four is especially important for women.
- Overweight: Women have a higher heart disease risk from being overweight than men do. Studies indicate that being only 20 pounds overweight doubles a woman’s risk of heart disease. If you are overweight, I recommend following my healthy weight loss tips. Plus, it's important to get physically active—it’s your most powerful weapon against fat—and to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and lean poultry. That’s the “Dr. Sinatra” way to safe weight loss.
- Diabetes: Diabetic women have a higher risk for heart disease than diabetic men. This is because the incidence of diabetes and its complications (including heart disease) is much higher in women. If you are a diabetic woman, your risk for heart disease is five to seven times higher normal, compared with a risk of only two to three times normal for a diabetic man. The single best way to prevent diabetes is weight loss, as well as eliminating white flour, sugar, and processed carbohydrates from your diet. Instead, add more healthy carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to your diet, including avocados, nuts, chick peas, and lentils which help to slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream. Exercise can also help you to lose unwanted pounds as well as increase muscle which in turn helps your insulin receptors to be more efficient.
- Low HDL Cholesterol: Women have a higher risk for heart disease than men if they have low levels of HDL cholesterol (under 35 mg/dL). For men, high levels of LDL present a greater risk, but for women, research indicates that a low HDL, not a high LDL, is the more significant risk factor for developing heart disease. To raise your HDL cholesterol, I recommend weight loss, exercise, and reducing your intake of high-glycemic carbohydrates. You can also take vitamin B3 (niacin), 250 mg three times daily and slowly work up to 1-2 grams in divided doses three times daily. Plus, citrus Bergamot can also help, 500-1,000 mg daily.
- High Triglycerides. A high triglyceride level (above 200 mg/dL) is more dangerous for women than for men, especially if she is diabetic. Diabetic women with high triglycerides are up to 200 times more likely to develop heart disease. To be in the "safe zone" you ideally want your triglycerides to be less than 100 mg/dL. To reduce your triglycerides, you want to reduce your intake of sugar and processed carbohydrates. It's also important to keep your weight down and increase your intake of omega-3 essential fatty acids. For triglyceride support, I recommend taking 2-3 grams of omega-3s daily in divided doses.
Although you should take the above risk factors very seriously, I want you to keep in mind that you can substantially reduce all of them. Healthy eating, weight control, and regular physical activity are your weapons for keeping heart disease at bay.
Now it's your turn: Have you taken steps to prevent these heart disease risk factors?