Heart Disease and Protein Needs

Cardiovascular disease kills over 16 million people worldwide every year and is the direct cause of over 30% of all deaths. In the United States, both heart disease and strokes account for over 40% of all adult deaths (Source: Natural News 2006). In 2006, there were over 450,000 coronary bypass surgeries performed in the United States and there were over two thousand heart transplant surgeries the following year. (Source: The Texas Heart Institute Heart Information Center). The risk for developing heart disease of any kind can depend on a number of factors, including:

– Family history

– Weight

– Diet and exercise habits

– Smoking

– Gender

– Other health risk factors

Having a family history of any type of heart disease may increase your risk of developing certain conditions and may also increase your risk for heart attack or stroke, even without other risk factors being present.

Weight is one of the major risk factors for heart disease, especially with diseases that are caused by clogged arteries and plaque buildup. Weight can be most dangerous when it includes having a BMI of 27 or more and a waist to hip ratio of.9 or more. A woman’s waist measurement should be 33 inches or less. A quick look at your shape is also very telling as well: if you resemble an apple, with most of your weight above the hipline, you are at greater risk of heart disease than those who are pear shaped, or carrying their weight below the hips.

Diet and exercise habits are also an important risk factor to consider. It is recommended that you should get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. (Source: Ammer, 2005). The choice that you make for exercise is entirely up to you, but your doctor may have some suggestions as well. Good choices for exercise include walking, yoga, swimming and other water sports. A healthy diet is also important, including all of the important nutrients. The diet that is suggested by the American Heart Association is an important one. The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is also a valid suggestion.

While smoking is known as a risk factor for a number of other diseases, its role in heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, is very important to keep in mind as well, especially for those who have the other risk factors. Smoking raises the risk of heart disease in women five times or more than nonsmoking women of the same age.

It was long thought that most types of heart disease struck men more often than women, however, the dangers of heart disease for women have become more thoroughly researched in the recent years. Women do tend to get heart disease later in life, however, and it tends to be more severe. It is now the leading cause of death in women who are over 66 years old and claims six times more than the number of breast cancer deaths (Source: Ammer, 2005).

Diabetes, a serious disease on its own, can also raise the risks of heart disease by damaging the arteries, raising the blood pressure and possibly worsening the cholesterol levels. Having a poor overall lipid profile is also a dangerous risk to keep in mind. Women who have reached the age of menopause that are not taking estrogen may face the same risk of heart disease as a man who is ten years younger.

Diet Suggestions for Heart Disease (Before Heart Disease Starts)

Research by the Nurses’ Health Study showed that women who started eating a diet plan similar to that of Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) had lowered their risk of heart disease and stroke. DASH is based on healthy proteins (such as plant based rather than animal based protein choices), fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy products. The study stated that at the end of period, those eating from this plan were almost 25 percent less likely to have heart disease and almost 20 percent less likely to have a stroke. (Heart Insight 2008)

Protein should be included in any healthy diet and, in fact, is nearly impossible to omit even if it were to be tried. However, the right type and the right balance must be found. Protein should not make up more than 35% of the daily calories according to the American Heart Association. Two servings of soy protein each day can lower blood cholesterol by 9 points and may also lower the blood pressure as well as the chance of heart attack. (Source: Natural News, 2006)

Whey protein is also beneficial for heart disease as well. Not only may it improve blood vessel function, it may also help with blood flow by inhibiting the conversion of angiotensin I to its vacoconstrictor form, angiotensin II. (Source: Mercola 2009) Whey protein is a byproduct of cheese and is a mix of lacto-globulin, alpha lactablumin and serum ablumin.

Protein is important in the diet and can be gained from food or supplement sources. No matter which type is picked, they are either animal based or plant based. Animal based proteins include turkey, chicken, fish, dairy products and eggs. Plant based proteins include beans and soy products as well as rice. Supplements of all kinds can be made from any of these and are often a blend of protein types. Vegans and vegetarians who are interested in adding protein supplements to their diet can do so by eating more rice or soy dishes or adding rice or soy protein powders.

Shocking Food Pairs for Heart Health

Some foods and nutrients work better when they are put together. For an after-workout, pick-me-up drink, the blend of carbs and protein in chocolate milk is considered to be one of the best. Popcorn mixed with a little trail mix is a good snack choice, blending protein and a little fat. Garlic and onions blended together blend organosulfur compounds for healthier blood vessels and heart. Olive oil (phytochemicals) and vegetables combine together to give better anti-inflammatory protection, and citrus fruits (vitamins C and E, flavones) and oats (phytochemicals) work toward a healthier heart, lower cholesterol levels and improve the health of the blood vessels. Nuts, such as almonds, cashews and walnuts (vitamin E), and fish (omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D) lower cholesterol. (Source Magee, 2008)


Christine Ammer The New A to Z of Women’s Health Fifth Edition Checkmark Books New York 2005

The American Heart Association

Heart Insight Magazine August 2008

Elaine Magee, R.D. Food Synergy Secrets Today’s Health and Wellness October/November 2008

Dr. Mercola Whey Proteins Improves Heart Health Mercola.com August 29, 2009

Research Links Soy Protein With Heart Health Natural News November 18, 2006

The Texas Heart Institute Information Center