It was her comment in her book that piqued my interest. “For women with mildly raised cholesterol and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, red yeast rice preparation may offer a solution” mentioned world renowned cardiologist, Dr Angela Maas. “Red yeast rice contains monocolin K, which is identical to the statin, lovastatin … however, many [supplement] preparations on the market today have unknown origins and may contain un-identified amouonts of monacolin … so only use these preparations under the guidance of a healthcare professional.” (Maas, p. 64-65).
I didn’t know that there were specific vegetables and grains that helped to improve women’s heart health. However, since understanding the link between vascular stiffness (loss of elasticity in blood vessels), hypertension and menopause, the foods that help our arteries stay young are at the top of my shopping list. One of these foods is red yeast rice and the other is celery.
If you’ve been following my articles for some time, then you will have read about arterial stiffness. This is a degenerative vascular aging process, which mainly affects the inside epithelial wall of arteries and results in a reduced capability of arteries to expand. In turn as many of you may have found, they cause changes to your blood pressure due to the ‘stiffening’ of the vessels and subsequent strain on the tiny capilliaries. This in turn affects oxygen delivery to various organs and of course, your muscles too. It is well known in medical science that arterial stiffness is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular (CV) morbidity and mortality – especially for women moving through menopause or who are already in post-menopause. If you haven’t listened to my Masterclass on Menopause 2 hr webinar yet, then please read about it when you have time. Our menopause changes take a whole-body approach and take you through what these changes are, including the vascular changes that cause so many aches and pains in our muscles.
With women’s heart disease and high blood pressure emerging as one of the main causes of health problems in later life, health prevention research is gathering momentum about the dietary and exercise interventions that may be beneficial for women to adopt in their mid-life and older years. In a world that has so much emphasis on pharmaceutical solutions and endless supplements that are promoted, I’m passionate about women understanding that what they eat from day to day matters too.
Epidemiological studies have shown that vegetable consumption is inversely related to the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, research has indicated that many vegetables like potatoes, soybeans, sesame, tomatoes, dioscorea (yams), onions, celery, broccoli, lettuce and asparagus have shown great potential in preventing and treating cardiovascular diseases. This is because the certain vitamins, dietary fibres and the botanical properties of the proteins as well as the phyto-chemicals in these plants offer bioactive compounds to our body. (Tang, Meng et al, 2018).
Bioactive compounds are extra-nutritional constituents that are found in small quantities in foods and provide health benefits beyond the basic nutritional value of the product. It’s helpful for all of us to understand the foods that offer cardioprotective effects. These effects often involve reducing inflammation, regulating blood pressure, preventing clotting and clumping of blood cells and platelets, regulating blood glucose levels, and reducing damage to the heart wall and well as helping our cardiac enzymes do their job.
Red yeast rice is a traditional Chinese culinary and medicinal product. Red yeast rice is made by culturing rice with various strains of the yeast Monascus purpureus. Some preparations of red yeast rice are used in food products in Chinese cuisine, including Peking duck. Other forms of red yeast rice are made into dietary supplements to lower blood levels of cholesterol and related lipids (blood fats).
The hype about red yeast rice has emerged because some red yeast rice products contain substances called monacolins, which are produced by the yeast. Monacolin K is chemically identical to the active ingredient in the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin, which is one of the drugs in the category known as statins. These drugs lower blood cholesterol levels by reducing the production of cholesterol by the liver.
In the United States, numerous dietary supplements containing red yeast rice have been marketed to help lower blood levels of cholesterol and to reduce blood fats and subsequent, high blood pressure. But as Dr Maas warns, be careful about these products and their contents – all are not the same! The composition of red yeast rice products varies depending on the yeast strains and culture conditions used to manufacture them and some of the strains and conditions used to produce red yeast rice for culinary purposes differ from those used to produce products that are intended to lower cholesterol. (www.nccih.nih.gov/health/red-yeast-rice). Hence, if you are interested in exploring red yeast rice as a cardio-protective supplement, then please go and talk to a trained Naturopath or Doctor who specialises in Lifestyle Medicine practices. And of course, if you need to lose weight as well, then come onto the MyMT™ Transform Me programme which is on sale throughout July for those on you in post-menopause (over the age of 52 yrs).
What about the cardio-protective nutrients in celery?
The common name for Apium Grveolens is simply, celery. I talk a lot about celery in my coaching group, because it is known to be just one vegetable that is effective for helping to reduce high blood pressure in healthy women transitioning menopause. The reason for this is that celery acts upon the liver, helping to reduce glucose, blood fats (lipids) and because of the dietary nitrates it provides, it also helps to dilate blood vessels, which in turn, strengthens the heart.
Experimental studies show that celery has both antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Moreover, its essential oils have antibacterial effects too. That’s why it’s seeds are used in numerous pharmaceutical preparations to help treat some inflammatory medical conditions, e.g. asthma. (Kooti & Daraei, 2017). The root of the celery is also known to be a diuretic, so adding celery root to soup as many of my ladies who live in Europe do, is beneficial to cardiac health too.
Plants are an important source of natural active products, which vary, based on their mechanism and biological properties. Various phytochemical compounds, especially polyphenols (such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, and tansipropanoids) are responsible for increasing the powerful antioxidant activities of plants. Polyphenols have biological effects, which are important for women who are active (or who want to become more active with age). There has been so much emphasis on different dietary approaches for women as they arrive in mid-life, but none is as powerful as the Mediterranean Diet, which I have adapted to better suit the nutrients we all need to help us reduce inflammation as we age. I adore this photo of Susi way over there in Switzerland. When she came onto the programme, she was exhausted and wasn’t sleeping well. As such she didn’t have the focus for managing her fitness. I know how tough this is when you constantly feel exhausted. But as I always say, “It’s never too late to do something about your health as you age.” The photos she sent to me last week of her hiking near Crans-Montana in Suisse are gorgeous.
Understanding how we age is an important aspect for women in mid-life. For too long our symptoms have been looked at in isolation rather than taking an all-over body approach. Also, menopause is not being broken down into the 3 different phases – peri-menopause (when oestrogen and progesterone are still being produced); menopause, when periods end; and post-menopause, when periods have ended for a year or more. These 3 very distinct phases need different approaches because in some cases oestrogen and progesterone are still being produced and in post-menopause, there is very little production of oestrogen (although still some!). Furthermore, there has been too much emphasis on exercise and dieting regimes that are better suited to younger people and athletes and these prescriptions of exercise may be troublesome for women who are already overweight or who aren’t sleeping and have sore joints during menopause.
Heart disease is the number one killer of women worldwide, however, this isn’t being viewed through the lens of menopause. When you have time, I’ve made you a short video below – I hope you can see why I’m so passionate about this topic as we move into our post-menopause years.
If your post-menopause health has changed, then it’s time we take stock of how to change this so you enjoy better health in years to come. Menopuse is your biological gateway into your ageing years and it’s a time of our life when we become vulnerable to changing heart, joint and gut health and of course, the health issues that arrive with post-menopause weight gain too.
If I told you that ALL IT TAKES IS ONE HOUR A WEEK to listen to my modules and then make a plan for the week ahead using my brand new Transform Me Food Guide as well as other fabulous information I have for you, to turn around gut, joint and cardiac health, could you find that hour? I hope so!
If you can find an hour a week to watch my webinars, download and read the Daily Dozen summary sheets, use my Food Guide that is packed full of information and recipes for you, and start to make the changes in your life that will help your body to adjust to post-menopause, then please let me help you, to help yourself. That’s how so many women have become successful with their long-term weight loss by following this programme. You do it in your own time at your pace, but with my un-conditional support. When you have a moment, then I invite you to learn more about what’s in store for my post-menopause July weight loss sale.
Dr Wendy Sweet (PhD), Member: Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine.
Filippou C., Tsioufis C., Thomopoulos C., Mihas C., Dimitriadis K., Sotiropoulou L., Chrysochoou C., Nihoyannopoulos P., Tousoulis D. (2020). Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet and Blood Pressure Reduction in Adults with and without Hypertension: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. (2020). Adv Nutr. 11(5):1150-1160.
Khoudary, S., Aggarwai, B., Beckie, T., et al (2020). Menopause Transition and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Implications for Timing of Early Prevention: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation, 142: e506–e532
Kooti W, Daraei N. A Review of the Antioxidant Activity of Celery ( Apium graveolens L). (2017). J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 22(4):1029-1034. doi: 10.1177/2156587217717415. Epub 2017 Jul 13.
Tang, G. Y., Meng, X., Li, Y., Zhao, C. N., Liu, Q., & Li, H. B. (2017). Effects of Vegetables on Cardiovascular Diseases and Related Mechanisms. Nutrients, 9(8), 857. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9080857