Prescription 2019: Natural Heart Health for WomenMarch 14, 2019 Written by JP [Font too small?]
The most common symptoms of a heart attack are experienced by both men and women, namely chest discomfort, pain, pressure and/or tightness. Having said that, certain less common symptoms primarily affect women. Examples include difficulty breathing, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and pain in various sites including the abdomen, arms, back, jaw and neck. Additionally, the Mayo Clinic notes that when women have a heart attack, the symptoms can be more subtle and often take place during rest or stressful events.
Hormonal changes are something men and women invariably encounter as they age. The most studied forms of hormonal shifts are andropause in men and menopause in women. To date, there has been more attention focused on how menopause influences cardiovascular health. A decline in estrogen is believed to be an important contributor to the elevated cardiovascular risk that presents itself in postmenopausal women. Fortunately, hormone replacement therapy isn’t the only option to address this inevitability.
Many traditional foods, medicinal herbs and spices can assist postmenopausal women in relieving age-related symptoms such as hot flashes, mood changes and osteoporosis. Three recent studies illustrate the potential of natural remedies in promoting cardioprotection. The first reports that taking a black cohosh supplement, in addition to standard antihypertensive therapy, is more effective at reducing blood pressure and improving quality of life than medication alone. The second describes how equol, a soy derivative, safely reduces arterial stiffness while improving markers of bone health. Finally, the third study revealed that a standardized fenugreek supplement (FenuSMART) significantly stifled menopausal discomforts and prevented an increase in LDL, total cholesterol and triglycerides that was noted in women who were given a placebo instead of the fenugreek.
An unexpected study in the December 2018 edition of Complementary Therapies in Medicine reports that consuming 20 grams a day of Tualang honey may reduce a few cardiometabolic risk factors. The authors of the trial noted a decline in diastolic blood pressure and fasting blood sugar in a group of postmenopausal women receiving the honey. A separate study in middle-aged, prehypertensive women found that green tea, in the form of a concentrated extract (containing a total of 780 mg/day polyphenols), successfully lowered systolic blood pressure. Both results are encouraging. But, combining honey and tea may yield even greater effects. Although theoretical, I’m proposing this idea because of previous research from 2013 that describes a synergistic effect when tea and honey are combined. Not only does it taste good, but it seems that this combination results in a potentiation of the natural antioxidant activity of tea.
As in my previous blog about men’s heart health, I would be remiss if I didn’t address the role the gut plays in influencing cardiovascular wellness. Several recent publications highlight this ever-strengthening association and provide a basis for actionable steps women can take right away.
- In July 2018, the European Heart Journal featured a paper that stated the following, “Gut microbiome diversity is inversely associated with arterial stiffness in women”. In the concluding remarks, the authors declared, “This first human observation linking the gut microbiome to arterial stiffness suggests that targeting the microbiome may be a way to treat arterial ageing”.
- Another promising study can be found in the June 2018 issue of the journal, Nutrients. In it, a group of obese, postmenopausal women were given either a placebo or a multispecies probiotic supplement (Ecologic Barrier). The participants who received the probiotic demonstrated numerous positive changes relating to cardiometabolic risk. In particular, the insulin-resistance index, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and uric acid declined, as did body fat percentage and visceral fat.
- Older trials, including one from 2014, likewise suggest that certain probiotic strains may offer a measure of protection in at-risk populations. In this case, women with metabolic syndrome (MetS) were given a non-fermented milk (NFM) or a fermented milk containing Lactobacillus plantarum over a 90 day period. The fermented, probiotic milk, “showed more favorable results than NFM in relation to cardiovascular risk factors in postmenopausal women with MetS”. Of interest, both blood glucose and homocysteine, which are recognized risk markers, were significantly lower in the group receiving L. plantarum.
My goal today is to point out several lesser known alternatives that may improve your long-term cardiovascular prospects. Focusing on a nutrient-rich diet, sensible exercise, restorative sleep and social connectivity, as well as spending time in nature and stress management are still the optimal starting points to discourage virtually all disease and promote longevity. However, sometimes more is needed. When that’s the case, it’s reassuring to know that such “bonus therapies” can be as simple as brewing tea with added honey, optimizing gut microbiome and utilizing select foods and plant remedies that have been used safely and successfully as traditional medicine by countless generations of women.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:
Study 1 – Heart Disease in Women: Understand Symptoms and Risk … (link)
Study 2 – Effects of Cimicifuga Racemosa on the Hemodynamics Parameters … (link)
Study 3 – Effects of Equol Supplement on Bone and Cardiovascular Parameters … (link)
Study 4 – A Novel Extract of Fenugreek Husk Alleviates Postmenopausal … (link)
Study 5 – Long-Term Effects of Honey on Cardiovascular Parameters and … (link)
Study 6 – Short-Term Effects of Green Tea on Blood Pressure, Endothelial … (link)
Study 7 – Potentiating Effects of Honey on Antioxidant Properties of Lemon- … (link)
Study 8 – Gut Microbial Diversity is Associated with Lower Arterial Stiffness in … (link)
Study 9 – Dose-Dependent Effects of Multispecies Probiotic Supplementation on … (link)
Study 10 – Beneficial Effects of Lactobacillus Plantarum on Glycemia and … (link)
A Gut Feeling: Microbiota Diversity May Keep Arteries Flexible
Tags: Fenugreek, Honey, Probiotics
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Heart Health, Women's Health