When Dr. Dean Ornish lectured a couple years ago on the power of lifestyle changes he shared that cardiovascular disease (CVD), which kills more people worldwide than all other causes, is 95% preventable. He also stated that lifestyle changes such as meditation or other forms of stress reduction affect gene expression, so we can change a family predisposition for heart disease – a known risk factor. With such information available to us, we can hope to see a reduction in the incidence of heart attacks and strokes in the future. However, you cannot receive treatment for what you don’t know you have and you cannot prevent what you do not know you are at risk for. So awareness of early risk factors is critical – especially since by the time heart disease is diagnosed in women, it is often quite advanced and debilitating.
Unfortunately, more than half of women presenting with their first heart attack have “normal” cholesterol levels. Many people are actually presenting with low cholesterol which has its own set of adverse effects on the production of certain hormones, the normal functioning of the cell membrane and myelin sheath.
Men are more likely to have high blood pressure which is possibly the most dangerous of the CVD risk factors and one of the most difficult to resolve. Smoking tobacco significantly increases the risk for high blood pressure. Women are more likely than men to die from their first heart attack which makes prevention and stress reduction particularly urgent.
I encourage all of my middle age or high risk patients to consider getting extra cardiovascular testing done based upon family history and present health and lab test results. This allows us to consider a highly individualized prevention program that will provide you with a safer and more effective approach to improved cardiovascular health.
This could include acupuncture which is a very effective stress reduction therapy, as well as herbal and nutritional therapies indicated for high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, inflammation and oxidation of the various harmful lipids.