Dr. Volgman shares what lifestyle modifications help protect against heart disease in women.
I have been a big proponent of using lifestyle modification as the first line of defense against heart disease. If you are not doing that and you are just taking medications, you are doing yourself a disservice. A lot of men and women think that just because they are on medications for their cholesterol that they are protected.
That couldn’t be farther from the truth because if you are eating bad food, you are going to see a spike in cholesterol in your blood vessel. And before it even gets to the liver to get metabolized, you are already depositing more and more plaque into the arteries of your heart, your brain, your kidneys, so that you really need to cut back on how much cholesterol you eat so that your blood vessels don’t see that much cholesterol.
The other thing that you need to do is to exercise so that your HDL, the good cholesterol, goes up so that it sucks up all the bad cholesterol and takes it to the liver. If you don’t have a lot of good cholesterol, you can’t take that bad LDL cholesterol to the liver. It will just stick around in your arteries, and one of the things that I promote is the SOS, which is salmon, oatmeal, and stanols.
Salmon is a great food, not just for your face and your skin, which it makes you look young. I am a lot older than I look because I eat a lot of salmon. It’s just like Dr. Perricone’s diet is really promotes salmon for the skin. I promote it for their hearts, but a good side effect of it is you have younger-looking skin.
Salmon has good Omega-3 fatty acids. We are really promoting eating more fatty fish oils because it’s good Omega-3 fatty acids which really keeps your blood vessels free of, Omega-3 fatty acids are good for platelets. It doesn’t make you clot as well, and it’s very good for the lining of the heart. It stimulates good blood flow; it opens up the blood vessels.
The other thing in the SOS is oatmeal. Oatmeal is probably one of the best foods that people can eat to lower their cholesterol. It’s like a sponge with the LDL cholesterol. It binds to the cholesterol, and it doesn’t allow the cholesterol to be absorbed, and so it’s very good for lowering cholesterol, dietary cholesterol.
And then the last is the stanols or the plant sterols which act like cholesterol so it takes the receptors of cholesterol, but instead of taking it to the liver and getting it metabolized, it actually isn’t absorbed at all. So these are cholesterol-like molecules that don’t get absorbed. So it can lower the cholesterol because it will mimic cholesterol and then the liver is fooled so it doesn’t make more cholesterol, very, very good.
So I tell my patients who don’t want to take the statins that then it’s up to them to really lower their cholesterol, and at the Heart Center for Women, one of the wonderful things that we do is I have a nutritionist see my patients because, as you know, physicians are not educated in nutrition. There’s just not enough hours in medical school to teach us about all the things that we need to know about nutrition, and I have complete respect for the nutritionists and the dieticians who go through school to learn all about this.
And so each patient who needs to see a nutritionist gets a free nutritional consultation and free visits. We have a weight-loss program here at Rush that’s also free to our patients because when I built the Heart Center for Women, one of the first things that I know that causes heart disease is their food and the foods that they eat, and so I wanted to make sure that my patients have access, free access to a nutritionist.
About Dr. Volgman, M.D., F.A.C.C.:
Annabelle S. Volgman is associate professor of medicine and medical director of the Heart Center for Women at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Dr. Volgman graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University, and received her medical doctorate degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York. She received her internal medicine training at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics and her cardiology fellowship training at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. She was a fellow in clinical electrophysiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Illinois Masonic Medical Center under Richard Kehoe, M.D.
Dr. Volgman has published numerous abstracts and articles in multiple topics of women and heart disease as well as cardiac electrophysiology. She is currently president of the Metro Chicago Board of Directors of the AHA. She has been a prominent leader of the Go Red for Women movement and has received numerous awards from the American Heart Association. She has been listed in several lists of top doctors and was named a top doctor in the January 2008 issue of “Chicago Magazine.” She has been interviewed by numerous media about health issues and was featured in “O” magazine as Oprah Winfrey’s cardiologist.
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