Women’s Health: Special Report

The first step in managing your health is knowing who your enemy is.

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.

What’s the best way to take care of my heart?

Focus first on adopting a healthy lifestyle, recommend health organizations worldwide, including the American Heart Association (AHA).

In its guidelines for women, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association on February 20, 2007, the AHA urges women to:

  • Eat a diet rich in whole foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans and peas).

  • Eat seafood at least twice a week. Fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel are emphasized because they contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Cut down on saturated-fat-rich foods like red meat and full-fat dairy products like whole milk and cheese.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Exercise regularly. Women who need to lose weight should get 60 to 90 minutes of exercise per day rather than the 30 minutes typically advised for adults in general.

These AHA guidelines are essentially the same guidelines taught at the Pritikin Longevity Center. The results of the Pritikin Program for men and women, published in more than 100 studies in leading peer-reviewed journals over the past three decades, demonstrate just how powerfully – and quickly – lifestyle changes can benefit our health.

In just three to four weeks, the Pritikin Program has been proven to markedly reduce all key risk factors for heart disease, including

Cholesterol: 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.)

Triglycerides: 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.)

Hypertension: 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.)

Metabolic Syndrome: 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.)

Weight Loss: 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.)

HDL Function: 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.)

  • The Pritikin Program has also been proven to:
  • Substantially enhance the effectiveness of statin therapy. (American Journal of Cardiology, 79: 1112, 1997)
  • Eliminate the need for coronary bypass surgery. (Journal of Cardiac Rehabilitation, 3: 183, 1983)
  • Achieve long-term success. In two long-term studies, more than 85% of Pritikin graduates claimed a 50% or greater adherence to the Pritikin Program after five years, and the majority continued to lose weight after leaving the Center. (Journal of Cardiac Rehabilitation, 3: 183, 1983; Diabetes Care, 6: 268, 1983.)

I’ve read a lot lately about inflammation. What is it? What can I do about it?

Inflammation canbe a good thing. It is our immune system’s response to infection or injury and is characterized by redness, swelling, heat, and pain.

The type of inflammation that is not good is chronic inflammation. Scientists now suspect that persistent, low-grade inflammation throughout our bodies is linked to many diseases, including Alzheimer’s and heart disease.

For heart disease prevention, our lifestyle may play a major role in curtailing inflammation. Eating a poor diet, particularly one that’s full of saturated fat and trans fat, can raise the levels of LDL bad cholesterol in our blood. Too much LDL damages our vessel walls. In trying to heal this damage, inflammatory cells rush in, day after day. The problem is, these inflammatory cells also release many chemicals that may cause further damage, including the promotion of plaque rupture.

There is now an easy way to test for inflammation. Because inflammation in the body prompts the liver to produce a protein called C-reactive protein (CPR), doctors now measure levels of CPR to gauge levels of inflammation. Elevated CPR levels are linked with an increased risk of heart and stroke.

In a recent study of women at the Pritikin Longevity Center, scientists found that inflammation markers like C-reactive protein plunged on average 45% among the women, and in just two weeks. (Metabolism, 53: 377, 2004.) No other lifestyle-change program or drug therapy, including statins, has proven to lower C-reactive protein so dramatically or rapidly.

Can the Pritikin Program decrease my risk of cancer?

Most likely. Published in 2007 was the most comprehensive report ever of lifestyle habits and cancer prevention, entitled “Food Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective.” Leading health organizations worldwide, including the World Health Organization and the American Institute of Cancer Research, supported it. It was the result of a five-year examination of more than 7,000 studies by a panel of distinguished scientists from all over the world. The 8 key recommendations they identified (see below) for reducing cancer risk very closely resemble the key guidelines of the Pritikin Program:

  • Be as lean as possible within the normal range of body weight.
  • Be physically active as part of everyday life.
  • Limit consumption of calorie-dense foods. Avoid sugary drinks.
  • Eat mostly foods of plant origin.
  • Limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat.
  • Limit alcoholic drinks.
  • Limit consumption of salt.
  • Aim to meet nutritional needs, not through supplements, but through diet alone.

“What this landmark report means,” states Dr. Ronald Scheib, Medical Director at the Pritikin Longevity Center®, “is that we have the potential through our daily food and lifestyle choices to make a major impact on the cancer risk we each face in our lives.”

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.)

Can a healthy diet help keep my bones strong?

Absolutely. 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.

Conversely, the Pritikin Eating Plan is a rich source of virtually all the nutrients – magnesium, boron, zinc, copper, vitamin D, vitamin K, as well as calcium – that help keep bones strong.Dairy is important but so are fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens. In fact, collard greens have as much calcium per cup as milk. And many foods that are high in calcium are also high in magnesium, a nutrient that is essential for several biochemical reactions that build bone. Good sources of magnesium are vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds – all part of the Pritikin Program.

What are the Pritikin Program’s lifestyle recommendations for the menopause years?

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. Sam Sugar, MD, in his 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.

Always remember that if you’re taking good care of yourself, you’re also safeguarding the health of your spouse. Married people live longer.

I know what to do about my diet and exercise… I’m just not doing it.

You’re not alone. The fact, is, it’s very difficult to make major lifestyle changes amidst the everyday demands of work and home life. That’s why many women – and men – fail.

As more than 100,000 guests at Pritikin have learned over the past three decades, the Pritikin Longevity Center is the optimal environment to launch a healthful new lifestyle because you’re free, finally, of hectic schedules, as well as temptations. Moreover, you’re under the care of a world-class faculty who fully understand what you’re experiencing – and what you need to succeed.

Many women find that change is easy because of their education at Pritikin. Says Pritikin grad Brendo Diuro, 52, who is now off all her diabetes and cholesterol medications and has gone from a size 26 to 14, “The doctors, dietitians, and all my friends at Pritikin taught, supported, and encouraged me. Pritikin gave me the tools. When I got home, I knew exactly what I needed to do.”

She’s had no problem maintaining her new lifestyle because “I feel SO GOOD.” It’s both the little things she marvels at (“I can wear three-inch heels now – I haven’t been able to do that in ages!”) and the big ones: “I sleep at night now. I used to get up every hour to hour-and-a-half. Now I’m up just once to go to the bathroom. And every morning I wake up ready to roll, full of energy.”

And full of gratitude for her brand new life. “Thank you, everyone at Pritikin. I did it!”

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