Heart Health, lower cholesterol, eliminate heart disease
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Heart Health

About Cholesterol
How can you lower cholesterol?

The most common cause of death in women by the time of menopause (approx age 52) is cardiovascular disease. Women at high risk for cardiovascular disease also have a higher risk of stroke and hypertension.16

It has been suggested that post-menopausal women can virtually eliminate heart disease by eating a low fat diet, stopping smoking, keeping blood pressure low, exercising regularly, practicing compassion, and gradually shedding truly excess weight.31

Nutrients that may play a useful role in managing cardiovascular disease and hypertension include potassium, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and vitamins E, C, and niacin.16

The evidence that hormone therapy increases the risk of heart disease, strokes and elevated blood pressure is contradictory at the present time.16  Although early studies linked estrogen replacement therapy(ERT) with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, recent studies indicate that estrogen may offer some protection against heart disease and stroke.19 At the same time, unopposed ERT may lead to increased risk of endometrial cancer, increased blood pressure, triglycerides, and blood clotting leading to strokes.

Some medical studies in the 1950s actually showed increases in heart disease and mortality with estrogen supplementation31 while others reported a reduction in the risk of heart disease and hypertension.16 Dr. Susan Lark recommends that women who have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease should be monitored more closely while on ERT, or should not use it at all.

HRT (hormone replacement therapy which includes both estrogen and progestin) does not seem to provide the same protection for the heart as unopposed estrogen.19,31 Indeed, HRT has been shown to increase risk of stroke and heart attack.16,31


High serum triglycerides are associated with increased risk of heart disease (especially in women) because they often signal abnormal lipid metabolism and arterial damage. High levels of LDL and low levels of HDL, and a low HDL to LDL ratio are all correlated with atherosclerosis and increased risk of heart attack.33

There is some evidence that ERT (estrogen replacement therapy) raises blood pressure, increases the level of triglycerides, and increases blood clotting leading to strokes.31

For women in the midst of menopause, and those on ERT or HRT who know they have high cholesterol and triglycerides, herbs and other nutrients that lower cholesterol and serum triglycerides may be used.1,32,33 These include:

Alfalfa Niacin Psyllium
Ginger Vitamin B6 (pyroxidine) Guar gum
Garlic Vitamin C Pectin
Onions Vitamin E emulsion Oat bran
Cayenne Copper Olive oil
Hot red pepper Selenium Lecithin
Shiitake mushrooms Chromium chloride Green tea

Of these, cayenne should be used with great care, as it falls under the "potential poison" category. Copper needs to be in balance with zinc and selenium. Dr. S. Hendler says selenium is cumulative and toxic in higher doses, but there is sufficient reason to supplement the diet with 50-200 mcg per day.12


  • Reduce saturated fat, which includes all animal fats as well as hydrogenated coconut and palm kernel oils. There is some evidence that non-hydrogenated pure coconut oil and milk have the ability to regulate cholesterol levels. Try to keep saturated fat within 5% of daily caloric intake.32 Eliminate all hydrogenated fats, and consume no heated fats or processed oils.1,32
  • Use only unrefined cold- or expeller-pressed oils such as olive oil, flaxseed, primrose, black current seed oils. Cold-pressed oils have never been heated above 110 degrees during processing. At this temperature enzyme destruction begins.
  • Eat water-soluble dietary fiber – Take in plenty of fiber from fruits, vegetables and grains. Barley, beans, fruits, glucomannan, guar gum, oat bran and brown rice bran are excellent for reducing serum cholesterol.
  • Eat garlic, hot red pepper (chile) and shiitake mushrooms frequently.
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, and red and purple fruits.
  • Eat soy (unless you have thyroid disease) and other legumes regularly. It has been found that antinutrients in soy inhibit the production of thyroxine, so those with thyroid dysfunction would be well advised to limit consumption of soy foods.
  • Drink green tea regularly.
  • Limit or avoid refined carbohydrates, i.e. alcohol, cakes, candy, carbonated drinks, coffee, gravies, nondairy creamers, pies, processed or refined foods, refined carbohydrates, tea, tobacco or white bread. This is also a particularly good strategy for those with hypoglycemia and Candida albicans.
  • Avoid gas-forming foods such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and sweet pickles.
  • Get regular exercise.

Post-menopausal women are advised to make weight changes very slowly for optimum heart health. Chinese herbalists even consider it dangerous to the heart to lose weight after the age of 40. They point out that it is the diet as much as the excess weight that causes heart disease. "Eat right; do not worry about weight," sums up their attitude.31

We offer some alternative ways to handle symptoms such as heart palpitations and high blood pressure.

Visit The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, an excellent resource targeting heart health for women. WomenHeart champions prevention and early detection, accurate diagnosis and proper treatment of women's heart disease.

For more information about managing your menopause, see these topics on Project AWARE:












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Updated  06/15/2010


Updated 09/29/2010