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Women's Heart Health: Cultivating Wellness Through Plant-Based Nutrition


women celebrating together

Celebrating Women's History Month is not just about recognizing past achievements, but also acknowledging the enduring strength and contributions of women across generations. Despite facing numerous hurdles, women continue to shape society and drive meaningful change. As we honor their legacy, it's essential to spotlight the critical importance of prioritizing women's health.


“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”- anonymous.


Addressing Health Disparities Faced by Women

Within healthcare systems, women often encounter significant disparities in access to healthcare services. Studies have highlighted a concerning trend: women use hospital services 21% less often than men, citing various barriers including caregiving responsibilities. What's more, research conducted in Canada revealed shortcomings in patient-centered care for women, underscoring the challenges they face in accessing essential health information and services. These disparities can affect women's well-being and increase their susceptibility to diseases such as heart disease.


Elevated Risk of Heart Disease in Women

Heart disease stands as the leading cause of mortality among women in the United States, claiming the lives of approximately 400,000 women annually. Contrary to misconceptions, heart disease does not discriminate by age, posing a threat across all stages of life. Various factors, including genetic predispositions, chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension, as well as lifestyle choices such as smoking and physical inactivity, contribute to the heightened risk faced by women. The repercussions of heart disease extend beyond its immediate impact, often leading to severe conditions like heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure.


Recognizing Early Signs and Symptoms

Often silent until a critical event occurs, heart disease demands vigilant attention to subtle warning signs. Symptoms such as chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath necessitate proactive monitoring and early intervention. By recognizing these indicators and promptly seeking medical attention, women can mitigate the risks associated with heart disease and safeguard their well-being.


Navigating Diagnosis and Treatment

Effective management of heart disease hinges on accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment approaches. Through comprehensive evaluations, including lipid profile assessments and diagnostic tests like electrocardiograms, healthcare providers can devise personalized treatment plans. From medication regimens to surgical interventions like angioplasty, the spectrum of treatment options aims to alleviate symptoms and enhance heart function.


Empowering Prevention through Lifestyle Choices

While medical interventions play a key role, preventive measures serve as the cornerstone of heart health. Empowering women to adopt healthy lifestyle practices, such as stress management, regular exercise, and tobacco cessation, can significantly mitigate the risk of heart disease. Fundamental dietary adjustments, particularly embracing a plant-based nutrition approach, offer a promising avenue for supporting cardiovascular wellness.


women's hand holding a heart


Plant-Based Nutrition and Heart Disease


Whole Grains

Whole grains consist of the bran, germ, and endosperm — three components that contain health-promoting nutrients. The bran contains fiber, phytochemicals, and B vitamins, whereas the germ contains vitamins, protein, and healthy fats. The endosperm contains starchy carbohydrates, proteins and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. Since each layer contains essential nutrients, it's important to choose whole grains over refined grains, like white flour and white bread, that have the bran and germ removed. Whole grain options include brown or black rice, quinoa, farro, oats, amaranth, and buckwheat.


Consuming 3–6 servings of whole grains daily can contribute to total fiber intake, which has been shown to improve blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease. One serving can include 1 slice of whole grain bread, 1/2 cup cooked brown rice, or 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal.


buckwheat whole grains

Legumes

Studies show that consumption of legumes four or more times per week is associated with a 22% lower risk of heart disease. Beans, peas, and lentils are especially high in a type of fiber known as viscous soluble fiber which binds to cholesterol to reduce levels in the blood, preventing the risk of heart disease. Research shows that consumption of approximately one serving (½ cooked cup) of legumes per day may help to significantly lower LDL cholesterol.


yellow lentils

Fruits & Vegetables

Consumption of 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day has been linked to a 28% lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Fruits and vegetables are particularly rich in vitamin C and in beta-carotene (the plant-based form of vitamin A). These essential nutrients act as antioxidants in the body, scavenging free radicals and helping to slow down or prevent atherosclerosis by reducing the buildup of plaque from cholesterol and other substances in the arteries.


vegetables in the grocery store

Nuts & Seeds

Research finds that people who regularly eat nuts are less likely to have heart attacks or die from heart disease than those who rarely eat them. Nuts contain unsaturated fatty acids such as monounsaturated (almonds) and omega 3 fats (walnuts) that can help decrease inflammation and protect the heart. Studies show that consumption of peanuts and tree nuts (two or more times per week) and walnuts (one or more times per week), is associated with a 13%-19% lower risk of cardiovascular disease. If you're allergic to nuts, seeds, like chia seeds, flaxseed meal, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds offer similar nutritional benefits.


almonds


5 Ways to Add More Plant-Based Foods to Your Plate

  1. Elevate your salad from just a side of leafy greens to a satisfying meal by adding whole grains, beans, fruit, nuts and seeds to it.

  2. Make a smoothie that includes a variety of plant-based foods like leafy greens, berries, seeds, and oats.

  3. Swap out meat with beans one or two days a week as an alternative protein source.

  4. Simply add more plants to your plate. Add leafy greens and tomato to a sandwich. Layer avocado toast with nuts and seeds. Add veggies to pasta sauce.

  5. Snack smartly by enjoying hummus and veggies, apple and nut or seed butter, or homemade oat, nut, and seed bars.


grain bowl or salad bowl

As we commemorate Women's History Month, let us reaffirm our commitment to prioritizing women's health and well-being. By fostering awareness, advocating for equitable access to healthcare, and embracing proactive lifestyle choices like plant-based eating, we empower women to lead heart-healthy lives. Together, let us celebrate the resilience, strength, and enduring legacy of women, ensuring that their health remains a cornerstone of progress and prosperity.



nutrition and dietetic student

My name is Aakifah Shaikh and I am a student in the Coordinated Program in Nutrition at GSU. I am passionate about inspiring and helping others to make healthier lifestyle choices. As a Registered Dietitian, I would like to practice in the area of Women's Health, delving into the health conditions that are unique to women. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post as much as I enjoyed creating it!



1 Comment


Guest
May 09

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