In 1984, there were more women who died of cardiovascular disease than men. Cardiovascular disease has been the number one killer of American women, more than all cancers put together. Women were being treated differently than men, including hormone replacement therapy for high cholesterol instead of the more effective cholesterol-lowering medications called statins. This resulted in thousands more women dying from cardiovascular disease.
In 2001, the American Heart Association started a campaign to increase awareness about heart disease in women. This campaign was named the Go Red for Women campaign in 2003. Lynne Braun PhD, ANP, and I were involved with the inception of the awareness campaign, and we both continue to be involved with Go Red for Women.
In 2003, the Rush Heart Center for Women opened its doors to prevent and treat heart disease in women. In addition to our services, we also offered complimentary nutrition counseling, which we were able to offer through funding from grateful donors. We wanted to give comprehensive evaluation and compassionate care to prevent devastating cardiac events.
While Valentine’s Day reminded us that the heart is a symbol of love, fewer connect that symbol to our own personal heart health. As February is also recognized as American Heart Month by the American Heart Association, we should also focus our attention on lifestyle factors that can benefit our heart, whether through smoking cessation, increased physical activity or diet modification.
While this month highlights these key factors that impact heart health, our heart is something that deserves our attention all year round. How do we incorporate heart-healthy ingredients into our diet, and what are the mechanisms by which they function? Discussed below are a few key foods to incorporate into the diet on a frequent basis.
Oatmeal: The key to oatmeal’s success as a heart-healthy food is likely two-fold. First, oatmeal contains soluble fiber, a type of fiber that is unique in that it has the ability to trap cholesterol within the intestine, reducing absorption. This results in reduced plasma low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) concentrations and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. With 2 grams of soluble fiber per half-cup dry serving, oatmeal provides a good start toward the goal of 10 grams of soluble fiber a day. While oats have the highest proportion of soluble fiber compared to other grains, other good options include beans, peas, barley and citrus fruits. Second, oatmeal is a low-fat breakfast item that can serve as an alternative to eggs, bacon and the donuts we gravitate to on our drive to work; when these breakfast items are replaced with a low-fat, low-calorie, high-fiber food, health benefits are soon to follow. Continue reading →