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February is Heart and Stroke Awareness Month—Show Your Heart Some Love!

Ladies, this one is for you: As women get older, they become increasingly more susceptible to cardiovascular disease.

Why?  Estrogen affects female health by keeping harmful cholesterol levels in check.  The driving force of menopause is decreased estrogen production… thus decreased protection from bad cholesterol.  According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, heart disease and stroke kill 31,000 Canadian women per year.  Unfortunately, cardiovascular disease is typecast as male related, and women often go untreated or misdiagnosed. This translates to women being less likely to get the cardiac care they require to identify and address their own unique risk factors.

So what can women do?  Among the many recommendations of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada is to consume at least 2 grams of plant sterols per day

Plant sterols are the botanical equivalent of cholesterol. They’re abundant in plant sourced foods such as cereals, vegetable oils, seeds and nuts. Their similar structure to cholesterol allows them to compete with harmful LDL cholesterol for absorption sites within the intestines. This inhibits the absorption of this bad cholesterol in the gut which corelates with lower total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Its almost impossible to obtain a therapeutic amount of plant sterols from food alone. The great news is they’re available in supplement form and in functional foods such as plant sterol enriched cooking oils. It’s worth having a discussion with your health care practitioner regarding how plant sterols can play a vital role in your cardiovascular health.

By the way, this applies to men as well, so please do share this information with the men you care for!