Women & Heart Disease


Heart disease for a long time was thought of as a mans problem. The reason could have been because it has a very strong relation to a persons stress and as the man used to be the sole breadwinner and also had to handle his work place stress he was probably more prone to heart problems.

This picture has changed and today even women in there 30's are showing raised blood lipid levels. The reason for this could be that women have started working and their stress today may be even more than the mans as their responsibilities of running the home and raising the children has not been reduced. They have to manage the home, children, as well as the work place pressures and demands.

The second big factor is that the cooking picture has changed. The woman is in a hurry and convenience has overruled what is correct and healthy. To cook anything faster you need to use more oil. Also the housewife has handed over her caring cooking to the cook or maid who again is liberal with the use of oil. Finally it is convenient and quicker to eat or order from cafés, restaurants etc and there again restaurant food is always oilier and tastier and eaten more and more frequently. The Bottom line is oil or fat consumption has rocketed in the past 30 years or so.

The 3rd factor is the tremendous decline in walking or daily movements. In the old days one walked to the market, to the store, or to a neighbors house but today that has stopped completely. Also big homes have been abandoned for tiny flats and the walking around to maintain a house and compound which kept women quite fit and healthy has vanished. Also instead of being on your feet the whole day fulfilling household chores, women are sitting at a desk for 9-10 hrs a day. Today obesity and heart disease is plaguing women of all socio-economic levels and backgrounds.

Besides the above factors your genetics also plays a major role. Those who have a family history of heart disease could be definitely more prone and must be cautious from a young age. One woman may be able to eat mittai made of ghee daily and see normal blood cholesterol levels. She is called a hypo-responder to cholesterol in her diet. Another woman may eat mittai just once a week and her levels may be high. She is called a hyper responder to cholesterol in the diet.

Before I describe the details of various cooking oils or fats I would like to make a statement. In the past 5 years of my work as a diet counselor and specially advising many patients with heart problems the key is a total reduction of all or any kind of fat consumption. In day-to-day cooking the oil intake per person should not exceed 3-4 tsps of unsaturated oil.

The 2nd point is that there is no protection to your heart without regular exercise or walking. Here we are recommending a 20-30 min walk daily for all above 13 years of age. Finally High Fiber foods like fruits and raw salad has to be a part of the daily menu. Ensure that you eat salad with lunch and dinner. Have a fruit at 11am and 6pm and avoid an oily samosa or chips. Make sure at least dinner is a whole-wheat roti meal for more fiber. Avoid rice, pasta, idli, dosa etc at night. Fiber hinders fat absorption from the meal e.g. If your meal contains 10gm fat. If there is a salad or roti eaten with it the fiber will block the fat and allow only 8 gm to be absorbed. Also fiber helps to break down the cholesterol or triglycerides that is high in the blood as the body has to work harder to digest the fiber.


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