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Saturday, March 8, 2014

6 Tips for Preventing the Deadliest Diseases Among Women


In celebration of International Women's Day today, I'm sharing my top tips to help women prevent the leading causes of death and live longer, happier, healthier lives.

In the United States, women die most often from heart disease, cancer, and stroke. In fact, they die more often from these diseases than from ALL other causes combined. Worldwide, the leading causes of death among women are heart disease, stroke, and respiratory infections.

What do heart disease, stroke, cancer, and infections all have in common?

Inflammation.

Inside blood vessels, inflammation stimulates the formation of plaque. As atherosclerosis progresses, blood vessels become thicker and more rigid, which reduces blood flow and compromises the expansion and contraction of vessels that regulate blood pressure. Inflammation also makes cells sticky, causing blood clots to form, which can stop circulation completely. When blood can't flow to the heart, a heart attack happens. When blood flow is blocked in the brain, a stroke occurs.

Inflammation disarms natural killer cells, the part of our immune system designed to detect and destroy microbes and mutations. When natural killer cells are less active, bacteria and viruses are more likely to cause infections and abnormal cells are more likely to grow into dangerous tumors.

Inflammatory mediators stimulate cell division to replace damaged cells and inhibit cell death until tissues have time to regenerate. They also trigger the production of new blood vessels to increase circulation to affected areas, remove waste products, and deliver nutrients necessary for tissue growth and repair. In normal cells, this promotes tissue healing, but in abnormal cells, it promotes tumor growth and the spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body.

What Can Women Do?

We can choose health. Chronic illnesses are in part preventable and there are things we can do every day to reduce our risk. Here are my top tips to help women minimize inflammation, reverse disease, and prevent early death:

 #1  Stop smoking and avoid exposure to second-hand smoke.
Smoking causes inflammation and it's one of the most common causes of heart disease and lung cancer. Studies show that inhaling second hand smoke is also deadly and that quitting smoking has bigger benefits than we once thought.

#2  Exercise regularly. 
Healthy adults need about 3 hours each week of a combination of aerobic, strengthening, and stretching exercise. Unhealthy adults may need more. If you don't exercise already, or if you want to step up your routine, get permission from your doctor first.

#3  Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
Avoid foods that increase inflammation like sweets, starches, processed foods, and pro-inflammatory fats. Eat plenty of vegetables, fiber, healthy fats, protein, and anti-inflammatory spices.

#4  Lower your blood sugar.
High levels of blood sugar increase inflammation in the body, so if your fasting blood glucose level is above 87 milliliters per deciliter, it's time to do something about it.

#5  Manage Stress.
High levels of stress hormones like cortisol promote inflammation in the body. Learn to manage stress effectively and take time to relax and spend time doing things that bring you joy.

#6  Detox once or twice a year.
Detoxification reduces inflammation in the body and helps prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer, among other conditions.

If you're not sure where to start, read my new book, The Prediabetes Detox, whether you have prediabetes or not. You'll learn about the harmful effects on inflammation in chapter 1 and the importance of detoxification in chapter 2. Chapter 3 is full of specific recommendations for reducing inflammation through diet. Chapter 4 focuses on supplements, including fish oil which is naturally anti-inflammatory and has numerous heart health benefits. In chapter 5 you'll learn how exercise and stress management reduce inflammation and you'll find specific recommendations for incorporating these important activities into your regular routine. Chapter 6 will help you minimize your exposure to inflammatory toxins inside your home. Chapter 7 will give you guidelines for maintaining optimal health and living a long and joyful life. And chapter 8 is full of recipes featuring anti-inflammatory foods. It's a good place to start.

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