Yes, it’s Monday and I’ve already posted today’s piece. However, nothing like bursting the ol’ Wednesday Bubble early. So, ladies, listen up! When it comes to heart disease, namely a heart attack, your diet matters. In fact, researchers report that eating three or more servings of blueberries or strawberries a week can cut the risk of heart attack by as much as a third.
Nevermind the early Wednesday Bubble; have I got your attention yet?!!
Aging is a risk factor for heart disease, a leading cause of death in women. Moreover, the reason that more and more women start to die from heart disease as they grow older appears to have everything to do with the ability of cells to repair and replenish circulation and not much at all to do with waning hormone levels. You can read about that here. Cholesterol levels and weight gain also play a role. As does diet, in particular, the incorporation of flavonoids — compounds that are ubiquitous in nature — and found in many plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables, tea and wine. Yet, of the 4,000 some odd flavonoids that exist, which are the most beneficial in heart disease?
To tease out this answer, researchers followed over 93,000 women enrolled in the Nurses Health Study II over a period of 18 years. During this time, the women, all of whom were between the ages of 25 and 42 at enrollment, completed questionnaires about their diets every four years. Their findings? Women who reported eating higher levels of a subclass of flavonoids known as ‘anthocyanins,” which are responsible for the red, purple and blue colours of many fruits and vegetables, had as much as a 32% reduction in the risk for heart attack. Indeed, for every 15 mg increase in dietary intake of anthocyanins, the relative risk of having a heart attack declined by 17%. Importantly, these results remained unchanged even when researchers factored in other plant-based food constituents (such as potassium or folate), total fruit and vegetable intake, as well as alcohol drinking, and the presence of high blood pressure and/or diabetes.
The researchers point out that anthocyanins are believed to dilate arteries, counter the buildup of plaque and inhibit other mechanisms that contribute to atherosclerosis. Understanding how they work to counter the risk of a heart attack is important because the mechanisms underlying heart attack in younger and middle aged women versus their older peers, are different.
Of note, blueberries and strawberries were part of the analysis because they are the most eaten berries in the U.S. That aside, it is possible that eating other foods that have high levels of anthocyanins could produce similar benefits.
Want to stave off your risk of a heart attack? Eat more berries every week. It’s an easy fix for what could be a huge problem and there’s no time like the present to start on the path to heart health.
(This study appears in the online version of Circulation, the Journal of the American Heart Association.)
I am on a roll! On a roll around my midsection, that is.
Ever wonder why women may be likelier than men to gain fat in their abdominal area, especially as they go through menopause? Yup, we’ve talked lots on Flashfree about estrogen, exercise and even stress and the release of cortisol and how they affect that growing tummy donut. However, researchers are now adding another factor into the mix that may occur especially in women: a high-fat diet. Mind you, this particular study, which is published online in Diabetes journal, was conducted in mice so it’s way too early to comment on how the findings affect actual humans. But what it does imply is that diet might not be the only factor at play and in women, genetics and gender play an equally important role.
Researchers say that when female mice were fed a high fat diet, it triggered the production of an enzyme (called aldehyde dehydrogenase 1) that produce a hormone — retinoic acid — that boosts the formation of fat around the abdomen. Let’s step back; high fat diet leads to enzyme, leads to retinoic acid leads to belly fat. Got it?
Interestingly, not only is this enzyme activated at nine times the level in female versus male mice, but when removed, this domino effect disappears. What’s more? Estrogen can suppress the enzyme so when it starts to decline, women become more prone to developing that midsection bulge.
The culprit here is vitamin A and how the female body processes it. One of the functions of vitamin A is to produce a molecule that supports how the body burns both fat for energy and retinoic acid. Evidently, high fat diets can directly shut down the fat burning molecule and the domino effect begins, resulting in the midlife bulge many of us have come to know so well.
The good news is that on a regular diet, female mice barely produced retinoic acid, meaning the simple solution for women may be to stay away from high fat meals as much as possible.
If you can’t burn it, and you can’t rely on estrogen to keep the fire going (or take it away -ironic, right?!), then take some steps and do it yourself. D is for diet. F is for female. The endgoal? Do the math.Read More
I’ve written a lot about diet and maintaining a healthy weight , as well as impact on overall health as you age. And I will continue to do so as long as Flashfree is published. However, I have not written much on diet and how it affects symptoms, mostly because the evidence is pretty scant in that regard. Still, it has come up in conversations repeatedly and I feel that it’s time to at least broach the topic, especially since I discovered Dr. Akiko Sugahara, a Tokyo-based nutrition, anti-aging and women’s health specialist and her book, Menopause Recipes for Health and Beauty.
When it comes to maintaining health, obtaining minerals and vitamins through dietary sources is always preferable although not always possible. And while I cannot vouch for anything that Dr. Sugahara has shared in her book, her publicist did reach out with an offer to let me share a few pages here. Draw your own conclusions; we do know that not all soy products are created equal, and that isoflavone benefits may vary as well. Still, Dr. Sughara’s message is health comes first, which is why I chose this particular section to reprint in part. Please note that in her ebook, Dr. Sughara actually provides 10 ideas, which I have condensed for space purposes. If you want to read more, do download her book on her Facebook page.
Thank you Dr. Sughara, for providing your words to this post.
A deterioration in your physical condition during menopause renders you more vulnerable mentally. In this section, we present concrete ideas that will help you to manage menopause skillfully and improve your physical and mental health.
Taking a closer look at your everyday diet and identifying the problems.
Food preparation at home can sometimes fall below standard once the children have grown up. Before you know it, you might find yourself snacking instead of eating proper meals, eating lots of precooked meals and instant foods from your local supermarket or eating out more than you should. Where your diet is concerned, it is well worth making that extra effort for the sake of your own health and that of your family.
To identify potential problem areas, let’s first itemize your food balance.
Fermented soybean products more effective than supplements
The effectiveness of isoflavone in alleviating menopausal disorders is often discussed on television, and the link between soybeans and isoflavone is now common knowledge. Daily consumption of raw tofu, dried tofu, fermented soybeans, boiled beans or other soybean products is essential in treating and preventing menopausal disorders. Soybean milk, for example, is a convenient source of such also chill your body somewhat, so it is best consumed as an ingredient in stews and other hot dishes. Fermented foods, such as miso and vinegar, are more readily absorbed by the body and therefore provide isoflavone with a stronger effect.
Constipation relief as the basis for menopause relief
Many women with severe menopausal symptoms suffer from constipation. This condition also renders its sufferers more sensitive to the cold, often contaminating the blood and preventing it from flowing smoothly. This in turn reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the brain, making you absentminded and unable to organize your thoughts to get things done. Curing constipation therefore restores the blood flow to your extremities, bringing back the warmth to your hands and feet. The most effective cure for constipation is a diet of foods rich in isoflavone and polyphenols and especially dietary fibre, and sprouted brown rice is a prime example of these. Be wary of long-term use of medicinal laxatives, since they cause body chills that are felt deep inside your body.
Combating obesity with foods in 5 colours
Menopause is often accompanied by weight gain. Overeating to console loneliness is a primary cause, and a healthy digestive system will readily convert any excess intake into fat. This often results in a shortage of essential B- group vitamins, which promote complete combustion of nutrients and improve rain function, making it difficult to burn stored body fat. To combat weight gain, you should reduce your consumption of sweets and fruit and increase your consumption of stews made from as many as possible of the ingredients in the five basic colours. If you are susceptible to weight gain, then a staple of sprouted brown rice and wholegrain bread and an appropriate amount of exercise are recommended. This alone should eliminate obesity, helping menopausal symptoms to disappear naturally.
Dried foods effective for chills and abdominal ptosis
Many women who suffer from chills also have abdominal ptosis, or drooping of the viscera. This condition causes a deterioration in the secretion of gastric acid, preventing the essential absorption of iron and copper. It also causes the stomach to become bloated, so fatty foods lose their taste, and at the same time it restricts the consumption of plain foods. Consequently, some women skip breakfast or lunch or eat too little generally, resulting in a diet deficient in protein, iron and vitamins. To make things worse, the greater sensitivity to the cold that accompanies this condition can cause insomnia. The solution is to eat lots of shellfish, prunes and other dried fruits, cooked foods with iron and copper-rich whole-fish dishes and fried liver and vegetables. To compensate for the reduced amount of stomach acid, perhaps it would be a good idea to also eat foods containing vinegar and hot Chinese-style dishes with flavoured vinegar or to use pickled Japanese apricots in your cooking.
Idea 5: Combating osteoporosis with dried foods and fermented foods
Female hormones strengthen the bones to mitigate the effects of bone aging. As the secretion of female hormones declines, more bone cells are destroyed than are produced, and osteoporosis soon sets in, leaving the bones thinner and more porous and brittle. One way of dealing with osteoporosis is to include calcium-rich small fish, dried foods and fermented foods in your diet and to walk between 30 minutes and one hour every day. Another is to compensate for the decline in female hormones by eating plenty of isoflavone-rich foods such as miso soup and fermented soybeans to prevent body chills. Whenever possible, it is preferable to cure yourself using your own efforts rather than relying on yourdoctor.
Lately, I’ve been focusing on diet, exercise and weight a lot of Flashfree, mostly because women consistently talk about the changes that they are trying to make to eat more healthy foods, incorporate regular exercise into their busy schedules and pay closer attention to the more granular details of their lives, like stress and schedules. So, I was truly intrigued when I ran across a study in Psychological Reports discussing how music and lighting can also impact both how much we enjoy our food but also, how much we eat during a meal.
Although this research focuses on fast food restaurants, I believe that it could easily be extrapolated to the home setting or influence our choices of setting when we eat out. When the researchers did a partial makeover on a local Hardees, adding softer lighting and less jarring music to half the restaurant, they found that patrons who ate in the ‘chill section actually lingered longer and consumed roughly 18% less of what they ordered. Moreover, they rated the food more enjoyable.
When was the last time you sat down for a proper meal, turned off the cell phone and email, dimmed the lights and put on some relaxing music? I was fortunate to do so over the weekend with a good friend and it was just what the doctor ordered. I wasn’t paying too much attention to how much I was eating but rather, that it was such a nice to treat to simply hang out and talk for hours.
Perhaps it’s time to change the focus towards atmosphere. It may make a world of difference.Read More
When it comes to losing and keeping weight off, experts say to keep your eyes on the prize. In other words, long-term goals and not short-term gains should be the focus.In fact, a study that will appear in the September issue of Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggest that caloric intake, while shown to be beneficial for achieving immediate weight loss may be difficult to sustain in the long-term, especially among menopausal women. In an accompanying press release, lead study investigator Dr. Bethany Barone Gibbs explains: “Not only does motivation decrease after you start losing weight, [but] there are physiological changes, including decreased metabolic rate.” These changes, she says, are accompanied by increases in appetite-related hormones, adding “combined with natural energy expenditure decline in women following menopause, it is extremely difficult for older women to lose weight and maintain weight loss.”
Fortunately, study findings do emphasize a critical strategy: what you eat is extremely important.
The researchers came to this conclusion after studying eating behaviors in over 500 postmenopausal women. Over a period of two years, half the women met regularly with nutritionists, exercise physiologists and psychologists, and decreased the amount of total, saturated and trans fats that they ate, along with cholesterol from meat, dairy, fats, oils, baked goods and snacks. Conversely, they increased their intake of of foods rich in soluble fiber, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and sources of plant stanols/sterols (almonds, brussel sprouts, wheat germ/bran, peanuts, olive oil – all of which modulate cholesterol) and omega-3s. They also slowly incorporated physical activity into their lives until they reached set goals of 150 to 240 minutes weekly of moderate intensity physical activity and strength training. The other half of the women were offered 2 to 4 yearly seminars on general women’s health issues, such as smoking cessation or the benefits of regular physical activity but not weight loss. The entire group of women also had their eating habits tracked over the study period.
On average, women who changed their eating habits lost about 17 pounds over six months. These changes, which included lowered intake of desserts, sugar-sweetened beverages and fried foods, increased fish consumption and less restaurant meals were significantly associated with weight loss. After four years, this held true and continuing to eat fewer desserts and fried foods and cutting out sugary drinks proved to be beneficial. However, it also appeared that that eating more fruits and vegetables and decreasing intake of meat, cheese and sugar-sweetened beverages were additional factors in the women who were able to maintain their weight loss.
The overall message is clear: as we age, tried and true strategies, i.e. lowering caloric intake are important. But equally important in the long-term are more fruits and veggies and less meat and cheese.
Change and sustain. This doesn’t mean that you should sacrifice your cravings 100 percent. But you what you see now may not be what you get later if you are not mindful of what you’re putting into your body. Time to change your outlook? You bet!