By Jason Knapfel
For some reason, the perception that heart disease is a male-dominated health issue persists to this day. It’s a myth with potentially deadly consequences, since cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in postmenopausal women. Fortunately, a recent study has found a potential effective means for combating the menopause-heart disease connection. Published last month in the American Journal of Hypertension, the study’s authors came to the conclusion that a hypocaloric (low calorie) diet could not only reduce obesity in women, but also arterial stiffness associated with menopause.
When asked about what may explain the reason for heart disease risks in women being overlooked, Anthony Fabricatore, Vice President of Research and Development at Nutrisystem, told Diets in Review that “I think when people think about serious diseases that affect women, the first place their minds go is cancer – breast cancer in particular. So heart disease may be perceived as primarily a men’s health issue almost by default.” The study used Nutrisystem as its hypocaloric diet and a low intensity exercise program to examine results with and without fitness in overweight and obese postmenopausal women. Three groups were studied: diet and fitness, diet alone and fitness alone. What they found was that the hypocaloric Nutrisystem program was all that was needed to see reduction in arterial stiffness, but the addition of the low-intensity exercise helped maintain lean muscle mass.
The effectiveness of the low-calorie diet had and easy explanation. A calorie deficit helped the overweight and obese participants lose weight and “Losing weight favorably affects a number of cardiovascular risk factors among people who have weight to lose,” says Anthony Fabricatore, Vice President of Research and Development at Nutrisystem.
While many people struggle with a low calorie diet, due to periodic bouts of hunger, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s all about small portions of frequent eating throughout the day. “People eat five to six times a day on our program so they’re really never more than 2 or 3 hours from their next meal or snack,” says Fabricatore. “By eating more low-energy-dense foods, you can increase the amount of food you eat without increasing the number of calories in that food.” One of the most effective ways to raise awareness is to start a high-profile campaign. As an example, he points to The American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” campaign as a powerful advocate for the cause.