Heart disease is silent ... until it is not. By the time a woman has shortness of breath or chest pain, there is already significant damage to her blood vessels.
But the signs of risk for heart attack or stroke are present, even though most women do not know they are. Stubborn belly fat is one such sign and getting rid of it makes women and their hearts very happy.
Belly fat is the Siberia of fat deposits. Once fat is there, it can seem out of reach. And, belly fat is selfish. It wants to grow by making the body crave sugar and then quickly grabbing any ingested sugar out of the blood. This craving is worse before a period or in menopause because low estrogen makes belly fat crave sugar even more. Women with a history of gestational diabetes or family with diabetes are also more susceptible. This means that cookies, white potatoes and wine go straight to belly fat. Belly fat, especially for women in midlife and menopause, predicts high inflammatory markers in the blood, such as C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a clear marker for heart disease.
If we add the more silent markers of heart disease such as high blood pressure, average high blood sugars, mild depression and sleep deprivation, the risk of developing heart disease increases even more. Everything we do at midlife predicts how we will be at 80.
The trick is for all of us to change our daily habits and get rid of belly fat. It doesn't take much time to see the benefits if we trade the nightly wine for a wine spritzer, and the red meat and potatoes for a salad with chicken and avoid white bread. If you eat a whole wheat tortilla with chicken at lunch and an apple and peanut butter at 3 p.m., this becomes easy! Black-bean chili waiting at home or even a protein shake in the car after work will sound very satisfying—especially when your pants are loose and your energy is high. Your 80-year-old self will thank you for keeping her blood vessels squeaky clean.
Lowering your heart disease risk is easy when you know the tricks and the day-to-day benefits. Many women also enjoy knowing that solutions include the studies which show FDA-approved Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) started early can reduce the risk of heart disease. HRT is the best treatment to protect bone health and improve hot flashes, sleep and sex.
To reduce heart disease, we in medicine must make it personal. At true. Women's Health, we make heart disease prevention within reach and very personal. GO RED Month 2021 can be the time you learn your stats, make a realistic plan, get rid of belly fat and turn back the clock!
Written by Diana L. Bitner, MD, NCMP, Co-Founder and Medical Director, true. Women's Health.
Courtesy of true. Women's Health.