Remember the childhood song, ‘Beans, Beans, they’re good for the heart…’? If you remember the rest of the verse, I am laughing at you right now! LOL However, it’s true! Beans and other fiber-rich foods are good for the heart. Why? First, let’s step back and talk about women and heart disease.
Heart Disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, is the #1 cause of death in the U.S. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases and stroke cause 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds. Unfortunately, that’s more than all forms of cancer combined. It is a myth to think heart disease only affects men or older people. Here are the facts:
-An estimated 44 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases.
-90% of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke. -Women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men.
-80% of heart disease and stroke events may be prevented by lifestyle changes and education -Fewer women than men survive their first heart attack.
-The symptoms of heart attack can be different in women vs. men, and are often misunderstood – even by some physicians
So, what is heart disease?
It actually includes a number of different types of conditions. However, a large number of problems are related to the health of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygenated blood. Coronary artery disease occurs when plaque (i.e. cholesterol and other substances) builds up along the artery walls. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. The build-up in the arteries decreases the blood flow to the heart. If the plaque breaks away from the wall and blocks the artery, this stops the flow of blood to that area of the heart. Without blood, that part of the heart will begin to die. This is known as a heart attack. FYI, if a similar scenario happens in the blood vessels of the brain, brain cells begin to die. This is an ischemic stroke.
Nutrition, exercise, managing stress and sustaining from tobacco use play a huge role in preventing heart disease. They can significantly reduce your risk factors without medications or medical interventions. One of many ways we can take charge of our heart health is eating fiber-rich foods. Fiber is the part of plant-based foods that the body cannot breakdown. It passes through the body undigested, keeping our digestive system clean and healthy, and flushes cholesterol out of the body. It can help lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, lower LDL cholesterol and improve HDL cholesterol. All of these conditions are risk factors for heart disease that you have the power to change.
The current recommendations for adults are 20-38 grams of fiber per daily (based on gender and age). Fiber-rich foods include beans, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, etc. If you are new to eating a high fiber diet, be sure to consult with your Primary Care Physician first. It is best to start slow and increase your water intake along the way.
Happy American Heart Month! Always be proactive and take charge of your health. You have the power.
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For Heart Attack Signs in Women, click here