How to protect your heart (and why you need to)
Our bodies are amazing. Did you know that there are 12 organs that we can still live without?
Unfortunately, the heart is not one of them. This is because our heart keeps our other organs alive by pumping them with blood.
As we age, we become more at risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). There is nothing we can do about ageing, but we can support our heart’s health.
What is coronary heart disease?
When the blood vessels that supply the heart with blood become blocked, it changes the flow of blood into the muscles of the heart. These blood vessels are known as coronary arteries. This can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath known as angina, or even a heart attack.
“CHD is the leading single cause of death for both men and women,” explains Dr Justine Setchell, Hormone Health Associate, “however, the risks for women increase over the age of 50. This is why, at Hormone Health, we are interested in the impact of CHD on our patients.”
Blood vessels become clotted when a fatty material deposits itself on the wall of the blood vessel. This narrows the blood vessel and in turn, reduces the blood flow to the heart.
Menopause and coronary heart disease
If you are over the age of 50, you are more at risk due to the menopause. This is because estrogen protects our arteries earlier in life, much in the same way it does with bones.
When you enter the menopause, that estrogen level drops, meaning the protection is no longer there. But there are ways in which you can protect your heart.
Swap meat for fish
By swapping out meat for oily fish such as mackerel, tuna, or salmon then we will be lowering our intake of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and replacing it with high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
If you don’t eat fish, nuts and olive oil are also full of that good high-density cholesterol.
It is thought that the high-density cholesterol carries the fat away from the arteries to be broken down and turned to waste.
Cut down on sugary food and drinks
When we fill up on sugary food and drinks we are increasing our risk of diabetes and high sugar levels. High sugar and insulin levels help the fatty deposits build up in the arteries.
They also contain a lot of fat known as triglycerides, which are a type of fat that is stored in the blood. This can cause the artery walls to harden and increase your risk of CHD.
A healthy diet will support a healthy heart but so will regular exercise. Daily walks, jogging, yoga, and pilates are a great way to strengthen your body, maintain a healthy weight, and protect your heart.
Controlling your weight is one of the best things you can do for reducing your risks of coronary heart disease. Obesity increases your cholesterol and triglycerides, puts extra strain on your heart, and affects blood sugar control.
Reduce your drinking
While drinking too much alcohol is never good for you, it also makes it more likely you’ll put on weight. However, a glass of red wine is good for your heart as it’s thought it can increase that high-density cholesterol which leads the fats away from your arteries.
It is never too late to get the benefits of quitting smoking. Smoking reduces the good high-density cholesterol and damages the blood vessel walls. This, in turn, makes it easier for the fats to stick to the arteries.
Your doctor will be able to advise you on your options to quit smoking.
Healthy hearts in the menopause
While we cannot do anything about ageing, we can help protect our hearts during the menopause to reduce the risks of coronary heart disease. If you’d like some more advice on keeping a healthy heart later in life, do get in touch.