Coronary Heart Disease and the Benefits of Regular Exercise

According to the American Heart Association, physical inactivity ranks high among risk factors associated with coronary heart disease, the number one cause of death in the United States.  In fact, inactive individuals are at twice the risk of developing coronary heart conditions than those who exercise three times per week for at least 20 minutes.

Accordingly, the increased coronary risk linked to physical inactivity is similar to the increased risk associated with elevated cholesterol levels, elevated blood pressure or smoking a pack of cigarettes each day. (There are, however, substantially more inactive individuals compared to the numbers who smoke, have high cholesterol or high blood pressure).

Since the benefits of starting an exercise program appear to be greatest in the most sedentary individuals, the largest reduction in coronary risk occurs when an inactive individual adopts even a modest fitness lifestyle.

Just 20 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise, three times per week is needed to receive major health benefits.

This includes:

  • Any continuous, rhythmic, activity that uses large muscle groups
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling

How Does Exercise Reduce Coronary Risk?

There are a number of reasons physical activity works to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease including:

  • Increases HDL-C–Exercise has been found to be useful in increasing high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.  Recent studies have reported significant increases in HDL-C (between 5% and 15%) following aerobic exercise training.
  • Controls mild and moderate hypertension—A recent review of 25 long-term studies concluded that aerobic exercise training leads to reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
  • Decreases the risk of diabetes—Regular physical activity can help manage and even prevent noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.
  • Reduces excess body weight—Excess weight increases coronary risk.  Regular exercise increases daily caloric expenditure.
  • Other benefits—These may include resistance to lethal cardiac arrhythmias and a reduced risk of coronary thrombosis, which may be due to a reduction in platelet adhesiveness and the ability to aggregate, as well as increased fibrinolysis.

Are There Risks Associated With Exercise?

The major health risks of exercise training are muscle and joint injuries and sudden cardiac death. Cardiac deaths during exercise are highly publicized but they actually don’t happen very often. In one study of male joggers, it was found that there was only one death per year among 15,620 seemingly healthy individuals.  The rate of muscle and joint injuries among people who exercise on a recreational basis also is not very high. One study estimated that injuries requiring medical care occur at an annual rate of less than 5.14%.

Risks can be reduced however, if an exercise regimen is introduced gradually, within the physical limitations of an individual.

Guidelines for Safe Exercise

For the typical inactive individual, there are a number of steps that should be followed to minimize the risks of exercise.

  1. A physician should conduct a complete medical evaluation.  This may include a stress test to evaluate for increased coronary risk.
  2. Individuals may begin moderate exercise programs (i.e., activities within the current capacity that can be sustained comfortably for a prolonged period), without exercise testing, as long as he or she starts gradually and is alert to the development of unusual signs or symptoms. Men over the age of 40, and women over the age of 50, should have a maximal exercise test before beginning a vigorous exercise program, as well as individuals at any age who are at high coronary risk.  High-risk adults include those with two or more major coronary risk factors (i.e., hypertension, smoking, hyper cholesterolemia, diabetes and family history) and/or symptoms suggestive of lung, heart or metabolic problems (i.e., chest discomfort, shortness of breath with mild exertion, leg cramps, tachycardia).

The exercise program should be tailored to an individual’s needs and should also be designed to promote long-term compliance. The initial exercise program should be enjoyable and should not be painful or unduly stressful.

Anatomy of a Training Program

Based on guidelines established by the American College of Sports Medicine, a proposed fitness plan for cardiovascular health should meet the following criteria:

  • Flexible
  • Easily accessible
  • Not too expensive
  • Realistic based on an individual’s current fitness level

Any exercise program should also consist of a:

  • 5-10 minute warm-up period that includes a short stretching program and low intensity exercises. This leads to greater flexibility, prepares the cardiovascular system for more intensive work and decreases musculoskeletal injury.
  • An aerobic conditioning period lasting from 20-40 minutes that may include activities such as, brisk walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling, cross-country skiing, stepping or rowing.  The duration of exercise depends on the intensity of the activity. Therefore, lower intensity activities should be performed over a longer period of time.
  • 5-10 minute cool-down period that includes walking or pedaling against very low resistance, followed by a stretching period.  (This will prevent venous pooling, which may lead to hypotension, lightheadedness or syncope. The cool-down period may also decrease the risk of arrhythmias after aerobic exercise and may help prevent muscle soreness).

Finding Your Target Heart Rate for Optimal Success

In order to get the most benefit from exercise for coronary heart health, it’s important to determine your “target zone” or range in which your heart rate should be during activity.

To estimate your target heart rate, first determine the maximal heart rate (either directly from a maximal exercise test or calculate as 220 minus your current age). Maximal heart rates should be multiplied by 65% and 85% to determine the lower and upper limits of your target zone. For example, a 40-year-old person would have an estimated maximal heart rate of 180 beats per minute (BPM) (220-40) and a target zone of 117 BPM to 153 BPM (180 x 0.65 and 180 x 0.85). For sedentary individuals starting an exercise program, using 45% and 65% of their maximal heart rate as the lower and upper limits can modify the initial target zone.

Exercising at lower limits enables greater numbers of individuals to enjoy health benefits by allowing them to incorporate daily activities such as, gardening, house cleaning and walking into their activity program.

A target heart rate zone should be determined before you begin an exercise program, and be used as a guide to make sure you are not exercising at too high or too low an intensity.

Menopause and Its Functions— A Case for Hormone Replacement Therapy?

Menopause, the universal biological event in a woman’s life occurs at about age 51, marking the transition from the reproductive to the non-reproductive phase of life.  As the ovaries become less and less efficient and produce less estrogen, many women begin to experience a range of uncomfortable symptoms that may affect their quality of life.  In some cases, hormone replacement therapy, (HRT) may be a good option for these women.

What Happens As Women Age

Typically, the older women get menstrual periods change in character, becoming irregular until they cease altogether several years later. After the age of about 54, the ovaries become totally nonfunctional as blood levels containing estrogen drop to very low values for the remainder of a woman’s life. It is at this time that a woman must decide whether or not to pursue treatment with hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Logically, this decision should be based on the possible immediate and long-term consequences of having almost no estrogen in the body after menopause, along with the known benefits and risks of HRT.

Common Menopausal Systems

  • Hot Flashes— A sudden sensation of feverish heat occurs in about 90 percent of women during menopause.  There are large differences between women in the frequency and severity of hot flashes, however.
  • Atrophic Vaginitis— This is a thinning of the tissue that lines the vagina.  This also decreases vaginal lubrication so that sexual relations may be uncomfortable.
  • Psychological Symptoms—Many women experience psychological symptoms around the time of menopause. Most of these involve changes in mood such as sadness, irritability, and nervousness or anxiety.
  • Intellectual Function—Research finds that estrogen helps to maintain verbal memory, and possibly enhances the capacity for new learning in women.  This may become impaired during menopause.

Reasons For Menopausal Symptoms

  • Hot Flashes are thought to be due to changes in the concentration of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that occur because of the relative deficiency in estrogen. Hot flashes are usually most intense around the time of menopause (48 to 51 years) and tend to occur less frequently in the postmenopausal phase.
  • Atrophic Vaginitis and the loss of vaginal lubrication are symptoms that are estrogen-dependent and respond reliably to HRT.
  • Mood Disorders—It is known that estrogen is capable of acting in areas of the brain that influence mood. Furthermore, estrogen can increase the concentration of a neurotransmitter, a chemical substance that helps neurons communicate, that acts to enhance mood.

Although it is possible that the decrease in estrogen production around the time of menopause can precipitate depressive symptoms, which are reversed by estrogen replacement therapy, the dose of estrogen conventionally used will not, in itself, alleviate a major depressive illness. It is, therefore, very important to make the distinction between depressive symptoms and a full-blown depressive illness which may require treatment with antidepressant drugs.

  • Intellectual Function—The fact that estrogen increases the amount of an enzyme needed to produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is known to be important for memory functions, may explain the enhancement of specific aspects of memory that estrogen seems to facilitate. Whether or not estrogen will decrease memory deficits or retard the deterioration of memory in Alzheimer’s disease remains to be tested.

Why Hormone Replacement Therapy May Be Beneficial

  • Long-term Benefits—Currently, there are several well-established long-term benefits of HRT. For example, estrogen replacement therapy can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by approximately 50 percent. Estrogen accomplishes this in several ways, one of them being a favorable modification of lipid metabolism. In addition, estrogen has direct effects on the walls of coronary arteries.
  • Bone Density—There is a gradual loss of bone with increasing age, which is accelerated in women after menopause occurs. Osteoporosis defines a condition in which women have lost so much bone that they sustain fractures spontaneously or following minimal trauma. In fact, 17 to 25 percent of older women will sustain a fracture of the hip or spine respectively. Many studies have shown that estrogen effectively prevents bone loss in postmenopausal women.

Possible Risks Related to Hormone Replacement Therapy

  • Uterine Cancer—In the mid-1970’s, an increased risk     of cancer of the endometrium, the tissue that lines the uterus, was observed in women who were given estrogen replacement therapy. Since then, it has been demonstrated that the addition of a progestin, a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone, to an estrogen replacement regimen dramatically decreases the risk of endometrial cancer.
  • Breast Cancer—Conclusions regarding a possible increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women receiving estrogen are more tentative. Four studies, which combined results of many smaller investigations, failed to demonstrate a significantly increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal estrogen-users compared to nonusers.

A fifth study did find a greater incidence in estrogen-users but it appeared only after 15 years of continuous estrogen use. It is thought that the presence of benign breast disease is not a contraindication to HRT.

While the benefits of HRT would seem to outweigh the risks for many women, several factors must be considered before making a decision with your physician. 

These may include:

  • Your personal medical history including:
  • History of certain conditions including breast cancer, liver disease, blood clots, heart disease
  • Age and length of time HRT needed
  • Type of therapy necessary
  • Whether or not menopause is the result of surgical menopause, (hysterectomy) or naturally occurring
  • Severity of menopausal symptoms

Women’s Health and Hormones—The Delicate Balance

Hormones are special chemicals created within the body by the endocrine system. These are necessary to control various functions and processes including growth, metabolism, and reproduction. Female hormones also regulate sexual desire, menstruation and reproduction.

In females, the two major hormones are estrogen and progesterone. These are produced in the ovaries, the same organs that release eggs during ovulation. The levels of both of these hormones drop dramatically at the time of menopause when a woman stops ovulating. The decrease in estrogen causes most of the symptoms associated with menopause.

ESTROGEN—Fluctuates Throughout Life

Menstrual Cycle

During the “follicular phase” of the menstrual cycle, (when an egg is ready for release from the ovary) a woman’s estrogen level rises. This occurs during the first two weeks of the cycle when the uterine lining builds up in preparation for pregnancy. When estrogen and progesterone levels drop, this triggers the body to release the uterine lining in the form of a menstrual period each month.


Girls begin to produce estrogen when they reach puberty, thus beginning the process of the menstrual cycle.


During menopause estrogen levels decrease. The ovaries no longer produce enough to thicken the uterine lining and create menstrual periods.



PROGESTERONE—Necessary for Pregnancy

In the second half of a woman’s menstrual cycle, after the egg has been released from the ovary, progesterone levels will continue to rise if a woman becomes pregnant. This helps continue to keep the uterine lining thick so the fetus can develop properly in a nourished environment. Progesterone levels will fall if fertilization does not occur, signaling the body to shed the uterine lining during menstruation.

While Progesterone is necessary for reproduction, it sometimes creates uncomfortable symptoms for women in the two weeks leading up to their menstrual period. These can include, bloating, irritability, fatigue, breast tenderness, headaches, cravings for carbohydrates and sugar, sleeplessness, and acne. A combination of physical symptoms and changes in mood can occur and are referred to as premenstrual syndrome, or PMS.



TESTOSTERONE—Women Need it Too

Although testosterone is generally thought of as a male hormone, it is also produced in small amounts in women. While normal levels create sexual desire, elevated amounts may cause male physical characteristics such as facial hair growth.

Conditions linked with elevated testosterone levels can also include:

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Ovarian tumor
Tumor on the adrenal gland
Congenital adrenocortical hyperplasia

Menopause Symptoms—Causes and Concerns

Through various female hormones, (by way of the pituitary gland and the ovaries), the body is continuously communicating to raise and lower specific levels throughout puberty, the reproduction cycle, (during the child bearing years) and ultimately menopause. Factors such as stress, body weight, medications, and time of day and month, can drive these hormone fluctuations as well.

During perimenopause, (the period leading up to menopause) the ovaries slow the production of hormones including progesterone and estrogen. This leads to the body’s termination of the release of eggs from the ovaries each month. It is the lower estrogen levels that bring about many of the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause including:

Hot flashes
Night sweats
Sleep disturbances
Loss of muscle tone
Difficulty focusing/concentrating
Loss of hair
Vaginal dryness
Inconsistent menstrual cycle
Lighter/heavier, shorter/longer periods

Perimenopause begins to occur after the age of 30 while menopause generally occurs on average about age 51 or 52. Eventually menopause symptoms lessen and generally disappear altogether for most women. Menopause is complete when a woman no longer has a period for 12 months.

Women may seek hormone replacement therapy because of uncomfortable menopausal symptoms. They may also have health concerns related to menopause as well which include:

Heart disease
Weight gain
Urinary incontinence

Hormonal Therapy—Systemic vs. Low Dose Vaginal Products

There are two types of hormone replacement therapy that most benefit women, systemic hormone therapy or low-dose vaginal preparations of estrogen.

Systemic hormone therapy—This comes in the form of “systemic estrogen” in a pill, skin patch, spray, gel, or cream and is most effective for treatment of symptoms such as, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, burning, itching, and discomfort during intercourse. While this type of treatment can help with osteoporosis, most physicians prescribe other treatment for this condition.

Low-dose vaginal products—Vaginal preparations of estrogen come in tablet, cream, or ring form and can treat vaginal symptoms effectively, as well as some urinary problems. This helps to reduce dryness in the vaginal area, along with irritation and pain. Muscle tone of the vagina and urethra can be addressed, as well as irritation to the urinary tract, and the tendency for urinary tract infection.

Vaginal treatments are effective, while minimizing absorption of estrogen into the body. These types of preparations do not help with night sweats and hot flashes, or help protect against osteoporosis, however.

Bioidentical Hormones—A New Approach To Hormone Treatment

A recent approach to hormone replacement therapy has been to introduce “bioidentical” hormones. These are identical in molecular structure to those hormones we naturally manufacture in our bodies. They are not naturally found in this form in nature however, but are created, or synthesized, from a chemical that is extracted from yams and soy.

Bioidentical estrogens are comprised of: 17 beta-estradiol, estrone, and estriol. (Estradiol is the form of estrogen that is depleted at the time of menopause.) Bioidentical progesterone is simply finely ground progesterone, micronized in the laboratory for the best absorption in the body.

Natural Remedies for Menopause—Without Side Effects

Some women choose to manage some of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with menopause through nutrition, herbal supplements, exercise, meditation and yoga. Natural practices can help address, (or lessen the severity of) stress, depression, insomnia, hot flashes, and weight gain, without the side effects of prescription medications or hormone treatments.


Low in carbohydrates and refined sugars
Foods containing B vitamin folate
A balance of good fats, complex carbohydrates and protein
Three meals and two snacks per day to keep blood sugar stable

Supplement with Herbs

A variety of plants and herbs adapt to the body’s needs since they share some molecular features with the (body’s own) hormones. They allow them to support hormone production and even mimic what they can do according to unique bodily needs.

The following herbs and plants may reduce menopausal symptoms:

Black cohosh,
Wild yam

Because fat actually helps create the hormone estrogen, exercise to reduce fat can upset the ratio of hormones that cause menopausal symptoms. Walking, biking, swimming, running, yoga, and dance can help women feel better overall with mood, energy, and sleep disturbances as well.

Stress can be a major factor in hormonal imbalances involving neurotransmitters affecting mood and mental function. Thyroid function, digestive function, and blood sugar imbalances are also affected greatly by stress. Hot flashes and low libido have been linked to stress as well.

Ways to reduce stress and induce good feelings include:

Qi Gong
Deep Breathing

HRT— Hormone Replacement Therapy For MEN

Andropause—Otherwise Known as “Male Menopause”

Just as women go through important hormonal changes in midlife, male hormone levels begin to drop over time as well.  In fact, men’s testosterone levels peak at age 17 and begin to decline about 1 percent every year starting at age 30.  By the time a man reaches age 80, his testosterone levels will have fallen to about half that of a younger male.

Testosterone Availability

In all actuality, only about one-half of a man’s testosterone is active biologically, at any given time as well.  The other half is bound to the sex hormone-binding globulin that transports sex hormones, making it unavailable to the body for activity.  This means that while testosterone may be produced, it is not actually viable for growth, sexual function, reproduction, or the building of muscle mass. 

Physical and Hormonal Changes

When a man reaches middle age a process known as, Aromatase begins to take place in the body, causing more and more testosterone to begin to convert to estrogen.  Men also experience an increase in elevation of the sex hormone-binding globulin.  Together, these changes result in a net increase in the ratio of estrogen to testosterone and a decrease in total and free testosterone levels.

Male Testosterone—Who Needs It—And When?

Male fetus

Just seven weeks after conception, a male fetus begins to produce testosterone.  This works to develop the male reproductive system, as well as masculinize the male brain.

Teenage adolescent testosterone hormone levels surge causing changes including:

  • Lower voice
  • Broadening of shoulders
  • Facial and pubic hair growth
  • Masculine facial features/jaw
  • Increased sex drive
  • Muscles that begin to fill out
  • Increase energy
  • Links to behavior including aggression/competitiveness

In adult men testosterone helps maintain,

  • Strength and muscle mass 
  • The distribution of fat
  • Bone strength
  • The production of red blood cells
  • The libido
  • The production of sperm

In younger men,

  • Levels of testosterone tend to fluctuate a great deal and are elevated early in the morning

In older men,

  • The liver and fat tissue converts some testosterone into estrogen (as they age).
  • Levels of testosterone are more consistent and even so it is easier to get a more accurate reading.

Male Hormone Replacement Therapy—Benefits Beyond Increased Sexual Function

Many men are concerned about the possible need for hormone replacement therapy as they age.  Because the hormone, testosterone is necessary for sexual function, bone density, healthy red blood cell levels and muscle bulk, many men struggle with natural declining levels produced in the testicles. 

The benefits of testosterone replacement therapy can renew free levels (of testosterone) to stimulate sexual interest once again, and help with erectile dysfunction.  By raising testosterone, health issues such as diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome and osteoporosis may be addressed as well.

Higher testosterone levels can also strengthen a man’s bones and help control blood sugar levels.  In addition to the ability to improve mood, energy level, and reduce irritability and anger, raising testosterone may improve cardiovascular health as well.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy—Treatment Modalities and Types

For the past several years, many physicians have used the synthetic hormone testosterone to help treat low male hormone levels to reverse the age-related consequences that cause “Andropause”.  Prescription sales have reached about $400 million a year now, tripling the number of prescriptions in recent years.  Though this pales in comparison to the $12.5 billion spent on medication to lower cholesterol in this country, numbers are still impressive.

Modalities for testosterone replacement therapy include:

  • Muscular injections—Testosterone replacement through injections in the muscles can be given every two to three weeks.
  • Testosterone patches—Worn on the body, these patches may be rotated between the arms, back, abdomen, or buttocks.
  • Testosterone gel—This can be applied topically to the abdomen, arms or shoulders.

The Rub on Topicals

Because testosterone can be toxic to the liver if taken in pill form it is not available this way.   It can be easily absorbed into the skin however, so is available in gel form to be spread daily on the upper arms, abdomen, and shoulders.  This can be done after a morning shower when the skin is clean and dry.  Gel may also take the place of the more traditional patch, used for hormone replacement treatment.

The product, Striant is a gel specifically designed for application to the gums.   The FDA regulates this as a controlled substance, however.

Low Testosterone—Conservative Treatment

Urologists and other health practitioners have differing opinions about what constitutes low testosterone levels in males, and when hormone replacement therapy should be explored.  Some take a more conservative approach and consider the following:

  • A reading of below 200 ng/dL for men over 65, whereby three early morning tests reflect these subnormal numbers.
  • While men with low testosterone levels, (200–300 ng/dL) may, in fact benefit from testosterone replacement therapy, some physicians may chose to treat only men with very low testosterone levels.
  • Urologists and health practitioners should monitor testosterone levels carefully since testosterone deficiency symptoms are very general.  These include, diminished muscle mass, fatigue, depressed mood, and low libido.  By measuring testosterone levels physicians can tell whether hormone replacement treatment is working.
  • Optimal testosterone levels for men over 65 should be 300–450 ng/dL, which is the mid range for that age range of males.
  • Doctors vigilantly monitor diseases and conditions that are dependent on testosterone such as, prostate cancer and prostate enlargement.  Medical conditions such as, sleep apnea, breast tenderness, and elevated red blood cell counts should also be followed.

Alternate Approach—Same Destination?

Some physicians take a broader approach to hormone replacement therapy for males.

  • Many urologists place the cutoff at 400 ng/dL for low testosterone, rather than 200 ng/dL.
  • Some urologists allow the symptoms to guide them on whether or not to treat patients for low testosterone therapy.  They use hormone levels as additional backup information instead.
  • Some physicians emphasize more natural regimens such as, regular exercise, to keep cardiovascular systems in shape, help keep bones strong, build muscle mass, and keep off fat.

Your Health and Hormones

Every Body Needs Hormones

Your body’s endocrine system features a network of glands that secrete hormones, necessary for a variety of functions throughout the body. These include hormones that regulate growth and cell production, sleep and appetite, digestion, respiration, tissue function, reproduction and mood. These chemical messengers that travel through the bloodstream are produced in various small organs throughout the body, called glands. As they move through the body, these hormones help the various organs and structures to communicate with each other.

Sexual Health, Wellness, and Reproduction

Both men and women produce hormones throughout life that are critical to healthy sexual development, desire, and reproduction. Men also produce hormones for the purpose of strengthening their muscles throughout puberty and young adulthood. As we age however, these hormones related to sexual health in both men and women naturally decrease within the body. This can be a cause for concern in some individuals if health concerns arise or quality of life is affected.

Female Hormones

Estrogen: Thickens the uterine lining, preparing it for pregnancy. A drop in estrogen each month triggers menstruation.

Progesterone: Throughout the childbearing years progesterone rises during the second half of the menstrual cycle, (once the ovum has been released from the ovary). If the woman conceives, progesterone levels continue to rise to support the thickening of the uterine lining for the growth of the baby. If she does not, progesterone levels will fall, signaling for menstruation.

Testosterone: Low levels of testosterone, (about one-tenth as much as males) is produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands. This is needed to maintain sex drive and healthy bones, as well as to help preserve cognitive health.

Male Hormones

Testosterone: The primary male sex hormone needed for normal sperm development, libido and physical characteristics such as, deepening voice, Adam’s apple, lean muscle and facial hair

“The Change”—It’s Not Just For Women

Men and “Andropause”

We speak a lot about menopause for women or “male menopause”, but the more correct term is actually, “andropause” which incorporates the word, “androgens” referring to male hormones.

Men historically were biologically “designed” to be providers and protectors. They were the hunters and gatherers and needed great physical strength and muscle mass to carry out these roles. The hormone testosterone is necessary for the health and well being of all men throughout the ages however. It’s considered a “total body hormone” that affects every cell in the body. It helps create muscle mass and strength, boosts energy and libido, and elevates mood, promoting a positive outlook on life as well.

When testosterone levels drop, many men experience a number of physical and emotional changes that can be just as debilitating and challenging as menopause is for women. Lower hormone levels may also put men at higher risk for certain diseases and conditions including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis and hypertension.

Men experience hormonal changes in midlife as well. As men age, testosterone levels naturally drop. This may lead to:

Loss in sex drive
Reduction in the production of sperm
Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
Weight Gain (around the abdomen)
Depressed mood
Loss of lean muscle mass
Loss of energy

Possible links to:
Heart disease
Prostate cancer

Women and Menopause

As women age their bodies naturally begin to slow the production of reproductive hormones. Generally somewhere in the mid 40’s, (though this may begin as early as the 30’s) the onset of perimenopause begins. This is the period before actual menopause where many of the uncomfortable effects of a hormone imbalance are felt.

Common concerns for women generally involve a reduction in estrogen levels and may include:

Hot flashes—warmth in the face, neck or chest
Night sweats—profuse sweating at night that can cause sleep disruption, fatigue and tension
Vaginal changes—thin, dry skin may become irritated during intercourse
Thinning of bones
Loss of Libido
Mood Swings
Loss of Hair
Problems concentrating
Lapses in memory
Weight gain

Restoring Balance—Traditional or Natural Hormone Replacement Therapy?

A reduction in important hormones that regulate mood, libido, vitality, and energy can be problematic for both men and women in middle age. Functions that once kept both sexes feeling vital, energetic and healthy begin to fail causing loss of self-esteem, and physical and mental limitations.

Traditionally, individuals with hormone deficiencies were limited to synthetic therapies for treatment. Fortunately, natural hormone replacement therapy provides an important option for men and women looking to regain hormonal equilibrium in their lives once again.

Synthetic VS. Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy—The Difference

While both, synthetic hormones (synthesized in a laboratory) and natural hormone therapies, also known as, “bioidenticals” are chemically similar to the body’s own hormones, each are created differently.

Synthetic estrogens, marketed since the 1940’s are primarily derived from animal sources, specifically a pregnant mare’s urine. Horse urine contains estriol, estrone and estradiol found in the human estrogen molecule. However, it also contains equilin, an additional estrogen molecule specific only to the horse. These hormones are further processed to create pharmaceuticals for human application.

Only bioidenticals are created from plants and herbs found in nature. Bioidentical estrogen hormones contain estrone, estradiol, and progesterone and are made from yams and soybeans by many manufacturers. Bioidentical progesterone is micronized, meaning it is finely ground in the laboratory to be better absorbed in the body. Plant-based hormone material is extracted from the source and may be either formulated into hormones for commercial use, or furnished to compound pharmacies that mix the components into formulas created specifically for individual users.

In a technical sense, the body cannot tell the difference between bioidentical hormones and the hormones produced by the female ovaries. For example, a blood test reflects both the estradiol provided by bioidenticals combined with the estradiol naturally produced in the ovaries.

Premarin, on the other hand, a synthesized hormone is metabolized by the body into forms of estrogen that can’t be measured by standard laboratory tests.

Estrogen levels can be monitored with more precision therefore treatment can be individualized.

An array of FDA, bioidentical estrogens and micronized progesterone are made into a range of hormone products, many of these are available with a prescription at the local pharmacy.

The Risks, and Oversight

Biodentical Hormones—may be delivered to the body in the form of pills, capsules, creams, gels, injections, skin patches and pellets.

Synthetic Hormones—are usually administered in the form of creams, gels, skin patches, vaginal rings, pills, suppositories or sprays.

Effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy

Regardless of delivery methods, both synthetic and natural hormone replacement therapy treatments may carry some health risk. It is important to consult your doctor to discuss the possible benefits of HRT along with the chances of certain side effects or health consequences.

While the federal government oversees pharmaceutical manufacturing processes through the Food and Drug Administration, there is no regulation of compounding pharmacies in the U.S. at present.

The Facts on Heart Attacks

Your heart is surrounded with an intricate network of coronary arteries that supply blood, rich in oxygen, to the muscle deep within your chest.  When the arteries are suddenly blocked, stopping the flow of blood to the heart, the oxygen-deprived muscle is damaged and a heart attack occurs. 

Each year, 500,000 Americans die from heart attacks.  That’s one every minute in this country.  While heart attacks may be sudden and intense, and appear to come without warning, the body may have actually been providing clues long before the cardiac event occurred.

The Signs—Know How To Read Them

Many people don’t recognize the signs of a heart attack until it’s too late.  Learning how to detect the symptoms of cardiac distress could save your life—or the life of a loved one.

Signs and symptoms include:

Angina:  Sometimes mistaken as indigestion or heartburn, angina involves pressure or discomfort in the center of the chest.  This can also present as heaviness or numbness, tightness, pressure, burning, aching or squeezing.  Some individuals report feeling a sensation of fullness as well.  These symptoms may be intermittent leading up to a heart attack.

Discomfort or Pain in the Upper Body:  Many people experience discomfort or pain in the upper regions of the body, such as the back, neck, jaw, shoulder or stomach.  The sensations may come and go several times before or during an actual cardiac event however.

Shortness of Breath and Fatigue:  These may be signs there is stress on the heart that can begin months before a heart attack occurs.  Sometimes this may be combined with chest pain or discomfort as well.

Excessive Sweating or “Breaking Out in a Cold Sweat”:  When your heart works harder to pump blood through clogged arteries, your body reacts by sweating to maintain a lower temperature.  This can be an indication of an impending heart attack.

Nausea, Vomiting, Indigestion: Vomiting, indigestion, or nausea-like symptoms are common before a heart attack.  Many people dismiss these symptoms as normal because adults in middle age suffer many gastrointestinal difficulties in general.

Unfamiliar Dizziness:  This may be a signal that part of the heart muscle is dying due to heart attack.

Extreme Weakness or Anxiety:  Feelings of extreme fatigue or weakness within the body, or anxiety may actually precede a heart attack.  (A lack of oxygen due to heart disease may account for feelings of anxiety).   

Rapid or Irregular Heartbeat:  Weeks, even months before a heart attack occurs, a sudden, rapid or irregular heartbeat may begin to present in individuals at risk.

Differences Between Men and Women—While both genders will suffer from chest pain and discomfort, women are more likely to experience other symptoms such as upper body pain, nausea, and shortness of breath.

Stress Yourself—Stress Your Heart

Everyone on the planet experiences stress.  A small amount is necessary to motivate us to make changes in our lives and react properly to our environment.  Too much stress can cause a whole host of medical problems however.  These may include stomach problems such as, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and ulcers, or migraines and neck aches.  While each of us may experience tension in different ways, stress that has not been appropriately dealt with can boil over and can contribute to heart disease that may lead to heart attack.

What’s the connection?—Prolonged or sudden stress leads to physiological changes in the body.  These may include: 

Reduced Blood Flow To The Heart: This causes the heart to beat irregularly and may promote blood clotting.  If you have plaque built up in the arteries already, you may experience chest pain.  Over a prolonged period, the lining of the blood vessels can become damaged making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis.

High Blood Pressure:  The “fight or flight response” that is triggered by stressful situations, causes adrenaline and cortisol to flood the body.   These hormones make the heart beat faster, constricting blood vessels to move more blood to the body’s core.  This in turn, raises blood pressure.

High blood pressure may create conditions that lead to a heart attack.  It can cause scarring in the arteries that fill up with plaque.  These become prone to blood clots that may block the flow of blood to the heart.  The heart arteries may become thicker and harder as a result of high blood pressure as well.  When the blood supply to the heart is cutoff, a heart attack occurs.  The part of the heart that is oxygen-starved begins to die.  The longer the coronary arteries remain blocked, the greater the damage to the heart muscle.

High Cholesterol:  During times of high stress the brain’s hypothalamus generates cortisol and adrenaline for instant energy.  When cortisol produces more sugar than the body can use, the excess gets converted to fatty acids and cholesterol that remain in the blood. Too much LDL (bad) cholesterol can accumulate in the artery walls, preventing blood to flow freely to the heart.  When a blockage occurs, a heart attack results.

Obesity—The Weight of the Matter

About 70% of Americans are either overweight or obese.  This puts them at great risk for many health conditions including heart attacks.  Obese individuals may have higher cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and type-II diabetes.  While each of these conditions alone can be a contributing factor to heart attack, together, they increase the chances greatly. 

You are considered obese if your body weight is 20% more than it should be, or if your Body Mass Index is at 30 or above. 

A large waist, (greater than 35 inches for women, or 40 inches for men) in addition to a high BMI puts individuals at an even greater risk for a heart attack.


  • Raises blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Lowers “good” HDL cholesterol
  • Increases blood pressure
  • Induces type II diabetes
  • Increases risk for heart disease and harms the blood vessel system

According to the American Heart Association, a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese and should be treated.

Lower Your Blood Pressure—Lower Your Risk for Heart Attack

Roughly two-thirds of adults over the age of 65 have high blood pressure.  Levels ranging above 140/90 mmHg are considered high.  Blood pressure between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg is considered prehypertension. 

High blood pressure can damage the arteries causing them to thicken and harden over time.  Because they can become prone to blood clotting, the heart is at higher risk for heart attack.      

How To Lower Blood Pressure On Your Own

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Adopt a sensible eating plan, low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Get plenty of physical exercise.
  • Achieve activity goals by walking in place or driving whenever possible, doing chores, shopping, and errands.
  • Reduce sodium intake.  Add spices such as garlic and onion to flavor food instead.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation.  Alcohol adds calories to the diet and also raises blood pressure.
  • Use Prescription drugs as directed.  Follow physician’s specific instructions
  • Adopt healthy lifestyle changes in addition to medication.

Blood Pressure, Statin and Cholesterol Drugs – Items to Consider

We are going to get right in to a topic that I think is extremely important to many of individuals because so many of you are on statin drugs. We have new warnings out about statin drugs this week about its role in helping people develop diabetes, Type 2 diabetes after they’ve been on statin drugs for a period of time.

First of all, let’s set the record straight about something else here that is been near and dear to my heart for many, many years. I’ve consistently covered that high cholesterol is not the leading cause of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke. Matter of fact, the studies that have been done involving statin drugs and lowering cholesterol show that there is no increase in life expectancy nor is there a decrease in heart attack and stroke risks for healthy people taking statin drugs just because they have high LDL or bad cholesterol. Did you know that?

The only place that these cholesterol drugs really show a benefit is in people that have already had a history of the first heart attack or stroke. Prior to that, no real benefit. Make sure that you’re clear about that. There are numerous side effects that people endure when they take statin drugs. Liver problems. There is an interference of the manufacture of CoQ10 which is responsible for energy production within the body. There is a problem that can occur with muscle tissue breaking down from statin drugs, nerve damage, cognitive brain related impairment such as memory loss, forgetfulness, and confusion associated with statin drug use. Possible increased risk of cancer and heart failure with long term use, increased risk of muscle damage caused by exercise and also a reducer exercise capacity in those that take statin drugs; worsening energy levels; and an increased risk of obesity and insulin interference with the use of statin drugs.

In the event you don’t know what some of these statin drug names are, here’s a few of them: Lovastatin, Crestor, Lescol, Lipitor, Mevacor, Pravachol, Zocor. Many of these you have seen advertised on TV and promoted by the drug companies over the years. Now, it seems that as these patents are expiring on cholesterol drugs, we see more and more studies coming out telling us that cholesterol really is not the issue. Really? Why have we been dosing people with these statin drugs all these years? Because that’s what was the lockstep story between big pharma and your local doctor, unfortunately. There are still a lot of doctors out there that are brainwashed about this whole statin story.

Here are some new data that you need to consider when we look at the statin drug story. If you’re on these drugs, I would highly encourage you to sit and have a heart to heart talk with your doctor about whether or not you really need to be on them. Again, if you have never had a diagnosis of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease in general, in other words, if all it is, is that you have some high LDL, bad cholesterol, then there really is no benefit to taking cholesterol medication. I don’t want you to be mislead. It will not prevent the first heart attack nor will it prevent the first stroke. I know that’s conflicting with probably what your doctor is telling you, but this is what’s in the data. This is the truth. If you’ve already had a heart attack and stroke, then there’s a possibility you need to be on these statin drugs. That’s the only place they show a benefit.

Dramatic rise in diabetes.

Here’s the biggest problem, one of the biggest problems we have going on in United States right now is this dramatic rise in diabetes. This recent study showed that after following 8,749 non-diabetic men from the ages of 45 to 73 with a six year follow-up in this study known as the metabolic syndrome in men study which was based in Finland, the result showed that there was a 46% increased risk for Type 2 diabetes after adjusting for all confounding factors. The patients taking the statin drugs also had a 24% decrease in insulin sensitivity. That’s a key marker in diabetes, by the way, and a 12% reduction in insulin secretion. In other words, their body slowed down the amount of insulin it was producing, and again, something that further leads us into diabetes. This could be one of the prime reasons that we see a rise in diabetes because millions and millions of Americans are taking these statin drugs every day. This could be very well be one of testosterone underlying problems to this whole story.

If you are on these medications, these statin drugs, you want to know about some of the natural remedies that you can use to help with cholesterol without these kinds of side effects, get into your local health and nutrition store. 

For Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Vitamins and Supplements visit

Hormonal Balancing – How To Balance Hormones Naturally

There is a new study out showing that there’s a very powerful antioxidant that is available called pycnogenol. Many of you have heard about this by now. It is an extract that comes from French Maritime pine trees, specifically pine bark extracts. Again, this comes out of France. New study that was published in the International Journal of Women’s Health showed that a three month trial, researchers gave a 100 milligrams of pycnogenol or a placebo to a group of 24 women who reported monthly menstrual pain.

Now, women taking the pycnogenol experienced significantly less pain and 27% of them in this group that received the pycnogenol were completely pain free by the end of the study. A couple of important points about this study. Number one, I want to point out, it was a three month study. This goes hand in hand with a recommendation I have said for many years here on Good News Naturally. Anytime that you’re going to try something for your health, let’s say it is something you may be taking to help with cholesterol balance or, in this case, this is an antioxidant called pycnogenol, to be helping with menstrual cramps and PMS issues, give it ample time to work. In this case, they did three months.

Anything that you are going to apply to help with hormone balancing, give it ample time to work, and it’s the same thing, same thought process needs to be applied to things you may be taking for joint health, for brain health, for heart health. Maybe your blood pressure is sneaking up on you and you have settled in on some things that you want to take and some things you’re going to do for blood pressure. Make sure you give these things ample time to work. Three months is a good window of time to do that. I can tell you also that in many studies we see, that that’s a good indication that there’s benefit at three months, but the longer you do it, there’s actually even greater benefit down the road, especially when we talk about joint health, specifically.

The longer you’re on these types of supplements, the better they will show to work. In this case, we have a situation where a lot of women suffer with these menstrual cramps and other hormone issues throughout their lifetime. A lot of women end up with a lot of highs and lows throughout their years of having to deal with these cycles in and out, in and out, in and out, month in month out. This pycnogenol, this antioxidant, does represent a way to be helpful with these menstrual cramps. I want to remind you that I’ve also reported previously that pycnogenol has been studied in menopausal symptoms. Not only do we see it working in PMS, in menstrual cramp issues, but we also find the studies indicate that it does help with hot flashes and night sweats in menopausal women. That was a previous study with pycnogenol.

What else can be done? Here’s the thing that you want to really understand about this whole hormone balancing thing. That’s this. Environmentally, all of us are being bombarded by a lot of what they call xenoestrogens or environmental estrogen compounds that are affecting our endocrine system. They come from plastics. They can come from health and beauty care items, the various shampoos, soaps, conditioners, body lotions, makeup, things like that all have these common environmental ingredients in there that can disrupt your endocrine system leading you down a pathway throughout your lifetime of having what’s known as estrogen dominance.

When you have estrogen dominance, you typically have more problems with things like PMS, you have greater difficulties with perimenopause, and you definitely have greater problems with menopause years. Some of the other side effects or things that can happen to women, and this is just a quick snapshot of some of the things of estrogen dominance: fibroids, endometriosis, irregular bleeding, fibrocystic breast tissue, lack of libido, skin issues, and it goes on and on and on.

There are some great balancing herbs out there that you can use. One of the formulas I’ve recommended for many years is called Femtrol, F as in Frank, E-M-T-R-O-L. Two key ingredients here are vitex and dong quai. These two herbs have got a phenomenal history of benefit in helping women balance hormones. This can be taken from the time a young lady starts menses all the way through into perimenopause years. It takes that timeline into consideration. I also recommend something called EstroSense. This EstroSene formula is very good for balancing and detoxifying excess estrogen that can build up in a woman’s body over the years.

Lastly, I’m going to warn you ladies and tell you once again, do not allow yourself to be constipated for more than a couple of days. That is your body’s way of getting rid of this excess estrogen. If you’re constipated regularly, you are adding to the problem of this estrogen dominance because that excess estrogen will get recycled and recycled and recycled causing more and more problems. A lot of experts believe this is a lot of where the belly fat comes from too is this excess estrogen. If you need help with the constipation side of this, cleansing, fibers, probiotics, getting plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet. You go, girl. That’s right. We want to make sure you’re going every day because that’s your body’s way of taking out the trash and making sure things are excreted out of your body properly. Addition to that, just briefly, multivitamin and some extra B complex vitamins are very helpful in hormone situations.

Heart Health—Your Life Depends on It

Heart Health—Your Life Depends on It

Every 40 seconds, a heart-related condition claims the life of another American.  In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the nation, killing over 375,000 people each year.  According to the American Heart Association, identifying the seven risk factors that directly affect heart health and taking steps to correct unhealthy lifestyles and habits can prevent many of those deaths.  Once changes are made, the risks of heart disease and heart-related conditions can be reduced considerably.

7 Key Risk Factors for heart conditions include:

  • Smoking
  • Physical Activity
  • Healthy Diet
  • Overweight/obesity
  • Cholesterol
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Blood sugar/Diabetes

Heart Disease—A Common Enemy

Heart disease is a broad term that covers many types of heart-related conditions including, Coronary Artery Disease, (CAD that can lead to heart attack), heart failure, angina, and heart arrhythmias.

Coronary Artery Disease is the most common heart disease in the United States however, caused by plaque build-up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart.  The plaque that comes from cholesterol in the bloodstream narrows the arteries over time, blocking the flow of blood to the heart.  When the heart gets less blood than it needs, individuals can experience chest pains, called angina.  This can even lead to heart failure if left untreated long enough.  Sometimes the heart can develop an irregular heartbeat, or heart arrhythmia as a direct result of plaque build up as well.  When plaque clogs the artery walls blocking blood flow altogether, or breaks off and clogs arteries, a heart attack occurs.

Heart Conditions—Life Altering And Life Threatening

Many heart conditions may be treated or managed over the course of a lifetime including, heart failure, arrhythmia or heart valve problems.   According to the Centers for Disease Control however, about one in every four people die in this country due to heart disease every year.  Many of these deaths are due to stroke or heart attack.

Heart Failure

When we hear the term “heart failure” we likely assume that the heart is no longer working. This is not the case.  Heart failure refers to the fact that the heart is not working as efficiently as it should be.  Because the heart supplies cells with oxygen and blood carrying nutrients, the body becomes fatigued and cannot function properly when it isn’t pumping at one hundred percent.  While heart failure is a progressive, chronic condition many people manage it successfully under a physician’s care.


A heart “arrhythmia” involves a change to the normal rhythms of the heart.   Electrical impulses from the sinoatrial node may force the heart to beat irregularly—too fast, too slow, or erratically.  This causes the heart to pump blood in an ineffective manner.  A heart arrhythmia can be brief and harmless, or long-term and life threatening. This can lead to the eventual shutdown or damage of the lungs, brain, or other organs.  Many people will lead normal lives after the implantation of a pacemaker to regulate electrical impulses, however.

Heart Valve Problems

Heart valve problems can affect individuals gradually over time, or develop after certain illnesses such as, rheumatic fever or infective endocarditis. Valves can sometimes be too tight due to a condition known as “stenosis” that does not allow enough blood flow into the main pumping chamber of the heart. In other cases, leaky valves referred to as, “regurgitant valves” allow blood to flow back through the valves, causing the heart to work much harder to pump the same amount of blood.

Symptoms of valve disease can include chest pain, fatigue, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath.  Heart valve problems are generally treatable through surgery.  If left untreated however, they can be life threatening.

Heart Attack

Every 34 seconds, a heart attack occurs in the United States.  When blood flow to the heart muscle is interrupted, vital oxygen and nutrients necessary to keep it alive can’t reach it.  When damage occurs as a result of this starvation, a heart attack results.  This happens because coronary arteries that carry blood to the heart muscle become blocked from the sticky substance known as “plaque”.  This is created from fat and cholesterol.  Plaque can break off and blood clots can form around it, seriously blocking arteries.

Heart Attack Symptoms

Under ordinary physical activity, the following could be symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Excessive fatigue—fatigue beyond the usual amount
  • Heart Palpitations—feelings or sensations that the heart is beating too fast

or missing a beat

  • Dyspnea—difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain—pain or discomfort in the chest from an increase in activity

High Blood Pressure—Costs and Consequences

While 80 million U.S. adults reportedly have high blood pressure, the costs to our healthcare system are staggering, and the consequences to our health can be life threatening.  In the latest figures, gathered by the Centers For Disease Control, over 46 billion dollars was spent in 2011 alone in services, medication and missed days of work because of it.

High blood pressure gone unchecked can seriously damage the arteries, heart and other major organs in the body.  Over time the arteries stretch with the high pressure of blood flowing through them.  When the systolic pressure rises above 180 or the diastolic pressure rises above 110, it is critical to seek emergency medical treatment.

Health consequences of untreated high blood pressure may include:

High blood pressure increases your risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure or kidney disease if you have other risk factors such as:

The Cholesterol Concern

Contrary to what you might have heard, cholesterol itself is not all bad.  In fact, cholesterol is necessary for cell walls to produce vitamin D, hormones, and bile acids to digest fat.  This wax-like substance is vital for life, but only in limited amounts.  The liver produces cholesterol, and it is also found in certain cholesterol rich foods, such as poultry, meat, and full-fat dairy.  Too much cholesterol can cause plaque to form in the arteries, blocking blood flow to the heart, and a heart attack can occur.  If clots form and restrict blood to the brain, it could result in a stroke.

Heart Disease—Prevention Practices

There are a number of lifestyle changes individuals can make to decrease the risk of heart disease.  Much of what we do on a daily basis is habit and can be modified to make us healthier. 


Smokers who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than individuals who have never smoked.  Smokers are also at greater risk for coronary heart disease.  This includes exposure to second-hand smoke. 

High cholesterol

As cholesterol numbers rise, so does the risk of coronary heart disease.

Total Cholesterol: This should remain below 180

Low-density-lipoprotein or (LDL) cholesterol is bad cholesterol

Lower LDL levels are good for heart health 

High-density-lipoprotein or (HDL) cholesterol is good cholesterol


Triglyceride is a type of fat in the blood and varies by age and gender.  This is stored for energy between meals when the body doesn’t need it right away. High triglyceride levels in addition to low HDL cholesterol, (or high LDL cholesterol) can cause atherosclerosis, or fat to build up in artery walls.  This will increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure causes the heart to work harder and thickens the muscle itself.  It also increases the risk for stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and congestive heart failure.

Physical inactivity

Inactivity puts individuals at risk for coronary heart disease.  Moderate, long-term physical activity can help reduce cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.


Excess body fat, especially if it is around the waist increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Extra weight makes the heart work harder, because blood pressure is higher.  Weight also raises cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well.


Diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, especially if blood sugar goes uncontrolled.  Statistically, 65% or more of diabetics die from a blood vessel related or heart disease.