Half of the women in developed countries will die of preventable heart disease…half 🤯.
And did you know that death rates from heart disease are way higher in women than in men??
Crazy x 2!
But why? What is putting women at such a higher risk?
That is the question my dear friend Dr. Sara Gottfried sets out to answer in her newly published review article.
Today we’re discussing the key takeaways from her review paper to get an idea of the many different factors that put women at a greater risk for cardiometabolic disease.
We’ll also dive into my Try This protocol with resources for how you can start addressing these factors using concepts we’ve talked about in previous newsletters.
But first, let’s see why conventional medicine doesn’t do the best job at detecting early signs of cardiometabolic disease in women.
Why We’re Missing the Signs of Cardiometabolic Disease in Women
Conventional medicine doesn’t always recognize the core biological, psychosocial, hormonal, and metabolic differences between women and men. On top of that, current cardiometabolic diagnostic criteria are based on clinical trials done in men, which means many of the factors that are specific to women get overlooked.
Another reason we’re not catching signs of cardiometabolic disease in women is that doctors typically aren’t looking for symptoms of metabolic dysfunction until after menopause. This is a huge problem because the factors that influence a woman’s risk for heart disease take years to develop, and sometimes even longer (e.g., insulin resistance).
Sadly, by the time the symptoms of metabolic disease in women appear, it is often too late and the window for lifestyle intervention to prevent full-blown chronic disease has already passed
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Women Are More Susceptible to the Effects of Insulin Resistance
One of the most common mediators of cardiometabolic disease is insulin resistance. This applies to women and men. But did you know that women are more susceptible to the damaging effects of insulin resistance than men?
Maybe this could explain why women are two-thirds more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than men, a disease that is strongly linked to insulin resistance. Or why one woman dies of cardiovascular disease every 80 seconds in the United States.
Research shows that women with a fasting blood sugar greater than or equal to 110 mg/dL have a higher risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Even though this is a proven fact, there still isn’t anything being done to prevent creeping blood sugar levels!
To make matters worse, insulin resistance makes women more susceptible to hormonal imbalances. For example, PCOS, one of the leading causes of infertility in women, is directly linked to insulin resistance—and if left untreated, it can significantly increase a woman’s risk of heart disease.
And yet, despite all of this, fasting insulin is still not regularly included as a marker on metabolic lab tests. This is super unfortunate, because by not checking fasting insulin we are missing the early signs of insulin resistance, a condition that could be prevented with simple diet and lifestyle changes.
How Women Can Lower Their Cardiometabolic Risk
You’ve heard me talk about it a million times, but it honestly can’t be said enough—-metabolic health needs to be a top priority. That means being mindful of the foods you eat and how they impact your blood sugar and insulin levels.
We have to deprioritize the foods that contribute to heavy blood sugar imbalances like processed carbs, refined sugar, flour, and inflammatory fats. And we need to prioritize eating more healthy protein, quality fats, and fiber from low-glycemic fruits and vegetables.
Although it may seem basic, these lifestyle adjustments are one of the best ways to combat insulin resistance and protect yourself from chronic disease.
Here are three simple things you can start doing today to balance your blood sugar and reverse insulin resistance:
- Eat high-quality protein and healthy fats for breakfast. Pasture-raised eggs, avocado, chicken sausage, and smoked salmon are all great options.
- Leave 12 hours between the last meal of your day and the first meal of your next day.
- Go for a walk directly after you eat, especially after a meal that’s rich in carbohydrates.
We’ve discussed the importance of blood sugar balance and how to optimize your blood sugar using diet, nutrition, and lifestyle hacks in previous newsletters. I have included a nice variety for optimizing your blood sugar below.
Simple Strategies for Optimizing Your Blood Sugar
- Try This: Breakfast Protocol
- Try This: Manage Your Blood Glucose Levels
- Try This: A Super-Simple Hack to Optimize Your Blood Sugar
- Try This: Smoothie Recipes That Won’t Spike Your Blood Sugar
How to Use Easy Movement to Balance Blood Sugar
- Try This: Walk Your Way into Optimal Physical and Mental Health
- Try This: How a Little Movement Can Make a Big Difference for Your Metabolic Health
It’s also important to check your metabolic lab markers to see if the changes you’re making to your diet and lifestyle are working.
The following guides contain ideal reference ranges for HbA1c, fasting blood glucose, fasting insulin, triglycerides, cholesterol, and more:
Optimal Reference Ranges for Metabolic Labs
The Role of Autoimmune and Thyroid Disease
Here’s another crazy statistic: 80 percent of autoimmune diseases affect women. And there’s a reason for it. Pregnancy, postpartum, hormonal imbalances, and menopause can be triggers of autoimmune and thyroid disorders. And unfortunately, these also put women at a higher risk of cardiometabolic disease.
If you have an autoimmune disease or thyroid condition, check out the resources below for helpful tips on how you can optimize your diet and lifestyle to improve symptoms.
- Try This: When to Get Your Thyroid Checked
- 3 Steps to Reverse Autoimmune Disease with Dr. Terry Wahls
- How Hashimoto’s Impacts Brain Function and Restoring Thyroid Health
- Top Foods that Prevent and Treat Autoimmune Disease with Dr. Elroy Vojdani
Other factors that directly impact a woman’s risk for cardiometabolic disease include trauma, oral contraceptives, nutrient deficiencies, exposure to environmental toxins, eating disorders, and heightened stress response. On top of that, women’s arteries are smaller than men’s and more prone to blockages.
For all the women out there reading this, I can’t blame you if you’re feeling defeated or shafted. It definitely can feel like women get the short end of the stick when it comes to health.
But I know that a lot of the incredible women who’ve been on my podcast before, like Dr. Gottfried, don’t see things that way.
They think of women’s bodies like a Ferrari: powerful, dynamic, and beautiful. And like a world-class supercar, women’s bodies just need special attention to run optimally. Unfortunately, so much of how our modern society is designed runs counter to those needs.
But the tide is turning and the world is waking up. More and more people, women and men alike, are realizing that supporting our metabolic health is the key to not only living longer, but living healthier too.
Here’s to your heart health,