The first step in managing your health is knowing who your enemy is. The disease many women fear most is cancer, but the disease that kills more U.S. women than any other is heart disease.
In fact, more women than men now die of heart disease each year. That's right, heart attack is no longer just "a man's disease." Heart disease and related problems like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and overweight are everyone's diseases, including, most tragically, many of our children.
Analyses of 4,587 men and women staying at Pritikin for three weeks showed an average 23% drop in total cholesterol and 23% drop in LDL "bad" cholesterol. (New England Journal of Medicine, 323: 1142, 1990; Archives of Internal Medicine, 151: 1389, 1991. See also Circulation, 106: 2530, 2002.)
C-Reactive protein (CRP)
High levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood often indicate inflammation in blood vessel walls. It has become increasingly clear that inflammation of the arteries is a major player in the development of heart disease. In a study on the Pritikin Program, published in the medical journal Metabolism, Dr. Barnard and UCLA colleagues measured entry and exit blood levels of 20 women, ages 51 to 79 years, attending a two-week program at the Pritikin Longevity Cente. All had multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including obesity, hypertension, and/or diabetes. In just two weeks, C-reactive protein levels plunged, on average, 45%. There were also major reductions in LDL cholesterol (19%), total cholesterol (17%), insulin (26%), glucose (11%) and triglycerides (15%).
These 4,587 Pritikin guests also reduced triglycerides on average 33%. (New England Journal of Medicine, 323: 1142 ,1990; Archives of Internal Medicine, 151: 1389, 1991.)
In a meta-analysis of 1,117 hypertensives, nearly 60% no longer required medications after leaving Pritikin. (Journal of Applied Physiology, 98: 3, 2005.)
Type 2 Diabetes
More than 21 million children and adults in the United States have Type 2 diabetes, a disease that greatly increases the risk of heart disease. A meta-analysis of 864 diabetics found that Type 2 diabetes can be arrested and reversed with the Pritikin Program. More than 74% of diabetics on oral agents left Pritikin free of such medications; and 44% on insulin left insulin-free. Those who continued the Pritikin Program stayed off the medications. (Journal of Applied Physiology, 98: 3, 2005. See also Diabetes Care, 17: 1469, 1994.)
Having the Metabolic Syndrome, a condition now epidemic in the U.S., puts one at major risk for diabetes and heart disease. In about 50% of people studied, the syndrome was not only controlled but also reversed after just three weeks at the Pritikin Center. (Journal of Applied Physiology, 100: 1657, 2006.) Among children studied who had the Metabolic Syndrome, 100% reversed the syndrome within two weeks of adopting the Pritikin Program. (Metabolism Clinical and Experimental, 55: 871, 2006.)
Pritikin guests in need of weight loss lose on average 10 pounds within three weeks of starting Pritikin. (Archives of Internal Medicine, 151: 1389, 1991.)
When functioning properly, HDL "good" cholesterol has anti-inflammatory powers, which protect against damage to arteries. New studies, however, are learning that a saturated-fat-rich diet can turn HDL from anti-inflammatory "good" cholesterol into pro-inflammatory "bad" cholesterol, increasing the risk of plaque rupture and heart attacks. In research on 22 people, three weeks at the Pritikin Longevity Center restored HDL's heart-health, anti-inflammatory functions. (Journal of Applied Physiology, 101: 1727, 2006.)
Beyond Heart Disease
Breast cancer prevention
Research conducted by scientists at UCLA on women attending the Pritikin Longevity Center affirm the powerful benefits that lifestyle change has on breast cancer prevention. Studies have shown that the Pritikin Program retarded the growth of breast cancer cells in laboratory testing, and even induced tumor cells to destruct. (Nutrition and Cancer, 55: (1) 28, 2006.)
Ovarian cancer prevention
Research is also finding that following a diet low in fat (about 20% of calories) and rich in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains may protect against ovarian cancer. In a randomized controlled trial (such trials are considered the gold standard of scientific inquiry) of nearly 50,000 women, the group on the healthy diet ended up after eight years with a 40% reduction rate in ovarian cancer rates compared to women following a normal American-style diet. (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 99: 1534, 2007.)
In seminars on bone health at the Pritikin Longevity Center, you'll learn that in terms of your diet the solution to brittle bone disease, or osteoporosis, is much more complex than taking calcium supplements.
In fact, our physicians stress that the osteoporosis problem in the U.S. is probably not solely a result of our under consumption of calcium; it is more than likely due to our over consumption of salt, animal protein, soft drinks, caffeine, refined carbohydrates, vitamin A (retinal) from animal foods, and alcohol, as well as smoking. All these factors tend to leach calcium and other important nutrients out of the bone or decrease calcium absorption.
The prevailing theme in classes for women at the Pritikin Longevity Center is that menopause is a time of getting healthier, not older.
Healthy lifestyle changes, teaches Dr. Danine Fruge, MD, in her highly entertaining, eye-opening seminars on the menopause years, can "help maintain the health of peripheral tissues and organs so they continue to produce hormones which can have a dramatic beneficial effect during all three phases of hormone insufficiency."
Of course, each woman is different. Each has her own emotional, hormonal, and psychological needs. So at Pritikin, many women take the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Pritikin's highly trained faculty of physicians, dietitians, exercise physiologists, and psychologists.
General lifestyle guidelines for vibrant health in the menopause years and beyond include:
- Don't smoke. If you do use any type of tobacco, stop. It's never too late to benefit from quitting smoking.
- Eat a healthy diet - one low in salt and fat, and high in fiber, with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods. Limit red meat. All are recommendations of the Pritikin Eating Plan.
- Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet or in vitamin/mineral supplements.
- Learn what your healthy weight is, and try to stay there.
- Do weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging, or dancing, at least 3 days each week for healthy bones. Try also to be physically active in other ways for your general health.
- Take medicine to lower your blood pressure if your doctor prescribes it for you.
- Enjoy sex regularly (the best sex of your life really can happen later in life) for its many health benefits. Use a water-based vaginal lubricant (not petroleum jelly) or remedies such as a vaginal estrogen cream or tablets to help with vaginal discomfort.
- Get regular pelvic and breast exams, Pap tests, and mammograms. You should also be checked for colon and rectal cancer and for skin cancer. Contact your doctor right away if you notice a lump in your breast or a mole that has changed.
Recently the Pritikin Scientific Advisory Board met to review the latest research on this very important issue. The good news: Soy foods appear harmless. But steer clear of soy extracts (those expensive pills, powders, and other potions on supplement shelves).
Though a drink or two a day appears beneficial for heart disease prevention, this is not true for breast cancer prevention. Find out the powerful role that lifestyle choices play in keeping your breasts healthy.
Below are 17 lifestyle changes proven healthful for the menopausal and postmenopausal years, from Pritikin physician Danine Fruge, MD, part of her Women's Health seminar at the Pritikin Longevity Center.
Want a leaner, more youthful-looking body well into your 40s and beyond? Strength training, in addition to healthy eating and aerobic exercise, can be tremendously beneficial, thousands of Pritikin grads have discovered over the decades.