Women and Heart Disease
Clearly, Heart Disease is in the news and has been for years, thanks to drug companies marketing their drugs and to the work of the “red dress campaign” . There are national programs to educate us about risk, yet often women do not realize it’s about them too!
Heart disease is the number one killer of women!!
With over 20 years working in cardiology and women’s health, I’m a bit passionate about this topic. While I spent years working on the life-saving, high-tech end of this health epidemic, I found that there is a significant scarcity of information on prevention! Thus I want to focus my next few posts on women and heart disease. While I know heart disease is certainly a multi-factorial issue, today I’ll start with some basic info about women and cholesterol.
Cholesterol – Gender Matters
While 85% of women over age 50 say they are very knowledgeable about cholesterol, only one-third know their cholesterol numbers.
We’ve been bombarded in the last decade with advertisements about cholesterol-lowering medications like Lipitor, but here’s the rest of the story – especially for women.
Statin drugs (like Lipitor, Zocor, Mevacor) work to lower the Lousy LDL cholesterol. And…they do it very well- if you can tolerate the side effects. The truth is, however, that they only reduce the risk of heart or cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 30%. Think about that for a moment. If you’re out to lunch with 10 girlfriends, only 3 will have reduced risk and the rest of you are out of luck!!
Over the years, science has proven that combination therapy is needed to impact the entire cholesterol profile – the good “healthy” HDL cholesterol, the Bad / ”Lousy” LDL cholesterol, and the Ugly triglycerides. When all three are addressed then you can improve cardiovascular risk reduction up towards 80-90&%. Now we’re talking!!
This is even more critical for women. Research has shown that not only do women need a higher HDL (healthy) cholesterol compared to men (50 vs. 40) but we also need to focus significantly on Triglycerides (TG). The famous Framingham Heart Study suggests that for women– HDL and TG have a much greater predictive potential for heart disease than total cholesterol or even LDL (lousy) cholesterol. The staggering statistics show that women with a low HDL and high TG have a 10-fold increase in CVD. How often do advertisements share this info?
Do you know your numbers? Do yourself a favor- Get to know your numbers and decrease your risk.
Now, with all of that said, western medicine (myself included for some time) and big Pharma are coaching you to keep your cholesterol levels very, very low. While this can definitely have a favorable impact on cardiovascular disease, it can also have an unfavorable impact on other areas of your body. For instance, all of your hormones are derived from cholesterol, without the proper amount of cholesterol, your hormones won’t’ work as well. I share with clients now that while cholesterol is important, we now know that inflammation is a much, much bigger risk for cardiovascular disease. I’ll share more about inflammation and how to reduce it in another post. In the meantime, know your numbers.