Dr. Amy Bader, ND
Hi, ladies! I want to share a personal story with you. When I was twenty-five years old, I lost my dad to a sudden, massive heart attack. It seemingly came out of nowhere—POOF, he was gone. It has been 21 years since he died, and, it goes without saying, I still think about that experience often… a regular reminder of the obvious importance of cardiovascular wellness. Many factors determine the health of our hearts, including diet, inflammation, stress, genetics, and hormones. The cardiovascular system is like us… beautiful and complicated! I want to give you some tools to empower yourself when it comes to taking care of your heart (and other’s). So, ladies, this month your assignments are all about keepin’ your heart healthy and “oh, oh… oh, oh… stayin’ alive… stayin’ alive.” (Thanks, Bee Gees.)
Get a PROPER assessment of your cardiovascular health. These days we have advanced laboratory techniques for more adequately determining your overall risk for heart disease. Just checking cholesterol is NOT enough. We need to break it down into subcategories and really know how it’s behaving. Some forms of cholesterol are highly protective, while others are detrimental. Some are influenced strongly by diet, others by genetics. It is important to know how your cholesterol behaves so you and your doctor can determine if you need to make lifestyle or medication changes.
These cutting-edge laboratory panels often include genetic testing. One important genetic test is called MTHFR. (NOT an acronym for a naughty word! My patients often get a kick out of that one!) Mutations of MTHFR can put you at risk for “cardiac events” early in life. But, if you know about it, treatment is easy! Other genetic tests can determine if you have increased risk for stroke or Alzheimer’s.
As if this isn’t totally cool already, advanced blood panels can determine how inflamed you are and how well you are regulating your blood sugar. (Are you at risk for diabetes?) They also check for hormonal wellness, assess liver and kidney health, and look at nutrient levels such as Vitamin D. I recommend people over the age of twenty-five have this type of evaluation done every couple of years. Ask your licensed naturopathic doctor to order one for you, and interpret the results.
Learn CPR. When my dad passed away, I was the person who performed CPR. LORD KNOWS I was not anticipating I would be in THAT situation when I got up that morning. I felt then, and continue to feel, I was not as competent performing CPR that day as I could have been. Living with that regret… well, quite frankly, SUCKS. It took a few years to face my grief, fight tears, and walk back into a CPR training course. But, I’m glad I did. If you feel intimidated by CPR, it might make you feel better to know the technique has been simplified in the last few years. Trust me, learning it is well worth it. Fingers crossed you NEVER have to use it, but if you suddenly find someone else’s heart in your hands, you will be so glad you took the time. (Here is a link to the American Red Cross CPR course information.)
Women are tough! We are built to feel less pain then our male counterparts. I am reminded of a scene from the old TV show Mad About You in which Paul Reiser’s character said he wished he could be a woman so he could experience the joy of childbirth. Helen Hunt’s character replied (paraphrasing here…) “Are you kidding me? You’d have one menstrual cramp and kill yourself.” Ha! Let’s just say we can take pain. But, having superhero-like pain receptors means we often experience more subtle symptoms when it comes to heart attacks. Of course, we can have the common symptoms of chest pain, jaw pain, and shortness of breath. But, sometimes women merely feel nauseous, experience lightheadedness or mild back pain. Here is a link to the American Heart Association so you can review the symptoms in more detail. Please share this information with the women you love.
Take care of your emotional heart. Here’s an interesting tid-bit… the herb Hawthorn Berry (my FAVORITE herb ever!) has been used for eons to soothe broken hearts. It has a long tradition of healing grief and loss, and we still recommend it to patients for those reasons. I once gave it to a boyfriend who, just after taking it, suddenly opened up and confessed his love for me for the first time. (Now you know why it’s my favorite herb! Wink!) With modern research, interestingly, we now know Hawthorn Berry contains nutrients and compounds which are very specific to healing the physical heart. Isn’t that cool?! The same herb that opens up the emotional heart and treats grief-stricken broken hearts ALSO treats heart disease! It just goes to show the emotional and physical hearts are one in the same. So, help your heart: follow your passion, laugh, smile, tell people you love them, and never, ever let anyone dull your sparkle… ever. And, if you’re feeling your heart needs a little love, try Hawthorn Berry solid extract. It’s delicious!
I hope this information is helpful. It is important for me professionally and personally to share it. One last note… this article is dedicated to my dad who is still alive in my heart. I am grateful I had him for 25 years. He was the best. (Thanks, dad. I love and miss you.)
Take care of your(whole)self—
Amy Bader ND is a doctor, teacher, speaker, writer and entrepreneur. She is a graduate of the National College of Natural Medicine, where she is now an adjunct clinical faculty member training naturopathic medical students. She has private practices in Northern California and Portland, Oregon, where she lives with her beautiful daughter. She has a passion for treating patients with chronic diseases using clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, biotherapeutic drainage, and homeopathy. She has a particular interest in working with patients who want to lose weight and feel comfortable in their bodies.
Dr. Bader has been interviewed as an expert in natural medicine and natural healthcare for radio, newspapers, magazines and television. She has been a contributing expert columnist for a large online health resource website. Dr. Bader was a founding co-director of NCNM’s Integrative Skin Care Clinic. She is a member of the Advisory Counsel for Kamedis, a bio-herbal skin care company, and is a trainer for Radiancy, maker of LHE phototherapy systems.