My name is Bisleen Attli, and I am a second-year medical student at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. On the occasion of #InternationalWomensDay, I would like to stress on the health issues affecting Canadian women.
Women experience unique health issues and conditions due to their genetic makeup and characteristic hormones when compared to men. Some conditions affect women differently and more commonly. It’s important as a woman to recognize and understand these differences in order to achieve optimal health. The top three diseases that women are more susceptible to are heart disease, depression, and breast cancer.
You can reduce the risk of these diseases through the addition of simple lifestyle and nutritional modifications.
1. Heart Disease
In Canada, a woman dies of heart disease every 20 minutes . To make matters worse, early signs of an impending heart attack are missed in 78% of women . The most well understood pathogenesis of heart disease is attributed to atherosclerosis, where plaque that consists of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances builds up inside the arteries . The problem is not due to the amount of fat that is consumed, but instead the quality of it.
One of the best high-quality, heart-friendly fat foods are nuts. Three large prospective studies that followed 5 million people found that those who ate peanuts and tree nuts, 2 or more times/week, as well as walnuts,1 or more times/week, had a 13%-19% lower risk of total cardiovascular disease, and a 15%-23% lower risk of coronary heart disease . Nuts provide protection by lowering oxidative stress, inflammation and improve the functioning of blood vessel cells .
TIP: To reap the protective benefits of nuts it is recommended that you eat a handful of pistachios, walnuts and almonds together.
Depression is more than just having an “off-mood”. It is a debilitating disease that has a profound impact on an individual’s quality of life. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression when compared to men . It crucial to see the importance of equally treating mental and physical health to achieve optimal well-being.
A compound that has countlessly been researched for mood is fish oil. The active constituents in fish oil are EPA and DHA . An 8-week double-blind, randomized, control trial looked at the effects of fish oil on symptoms of individuals suffering from a major depressive episode . This trial found a clear benefit of omega-3 supplementation over placebo for reducing major depressive symptoms .
TIP: It is recommended to take fish oil with a 2:1 ratio of EPA: DHA with meals as that will double its absorption.
3. Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among Canadian women . It accounts for 26% of all new cancer cases, and it is estimated that approximately 1 in 8 women will develop this deadly disease .
The good news is that a healthy diet and lifestyle can help reduce the risk of this illness. One of the risk factors of breast cancer includes high levels of estrogen . Flaxseeds are a superfood that contain lignan precursors which are activated by your gut bacteria to then produce lignan . Lignans are phytoestrogens that help decrease the effects of estrogen on the body .
Researchers conducted a study on 45 women who were at high risk of breast cancer . They were given 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds every day for one year, the results were astounding ! These women had fewer precancerous changes and 80% of them had a decrease in Ki-67, which is a biomarker of irregular cell growth .
TIP: 1-2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed can be easily sprinkled onto any meal to enhance its therapeutic benefit.
The three tips stated above are a great way to start achieving your optimal health and well-being. If you combine these with a mostly plant-based diet and exercise, then you will be well on your way to your best health yet.
Bisleen Attli is a second-year medical student at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine who is passionate about inspiring others to achieve their best mental and physical health. You can reach Bisleen on her Instagram @bisleenattli or website http://www.bempoweredbyb.com.
- 2018 Heart Report news release [Internet]. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. [cited 2019Mar3]. Available from: https://www.heartandstroke.ca/what-we-do/media-centre/news-releases/2018-heart-report-news-release
- Caterina RD, Zampolli A, Madonna R, Massaro M. Nutritional mechanisms that influence cardiovascular disease . The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition . 2006Feb1;83(2):421S–426S.
- Guash-Ferré M, Lu X, Malik VS, Sun Q, Willett WC, Manson JAE, et al. Nut Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease. J Am Coll Cardiol . 2017Nov14;70(20 ):2519–35.
- Bitok E, Sabaté J. Nuts and Cardiovascular Disease. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases. 2018;61(1):33–7.
- Fast Facts about Mental Illness [Internet]. CMHA National. [cited 2019Mar3]. Available from: https://cmha.ca/about-cmha/fast-facts-about-mental-illness
- Lespérance F, Frasure-Smith N, St-André E, Turecki G, Lespérance P, Wisniewski SR. The Efficacy of Omega-3 Supplementation for Major Depression. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2010;72(08):1054–62.
- Public Health Agency of Canada. Breast Cancer [Internet]. Canada.ca. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; 2017 [cited 2019Mar3]. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/chronic-diseases/cancer/breast-cancer.html
- Greger M, Stone G. How not to die: discover the foods scientifically proven to prevent and reverse disease. London, England: Pan Books; 2018.
- Fabian CJ, Kimler BF, Zalles CM, Klemp JR, Petroff BK, Khan QJ, et al. Reduction in Ki-67 in Benign Breast Tissue of High-Risk Women with the Lignan Secoisolariciresinol Diglycoside. Cancer Prevention Research. 2010;3(10):1342–50.