But don't tell my heart, my achy breaky heart
I just don't think it'd understand
And if you tell my heart, my achy breaky heart
He might blow up and kill this man, Oooooh
Billy Ray Cyrus
Let’s talk about your heart, ladies. I’m talking about the same organ that made you fall in love with Paul Newman, Paul Anka, Paul McCartney, Peter and Paul, and even Mary. Your heart is what makes you swoon over, well . . . anything you swoon over. You may still turn your nose up at anchovies, but I bet you emotionally somersault every time you see those gorgeous grandkids of yours!
Your heart is the organ that takes sex from being a purely biological act to being something truly magical. Your brain and your heart are the sexiest parts of you.
That said, your heart — oh, cruelest cut of all — is also the body part that’s most likely to kill you as you get older.
I thought my biggest worry was getting breast cancer . . . until I had my first heart attack.
M. Richards, Minneapolis, MN
According to the American Heart Association, Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for all women in the United States. In the United States, more women over sixty-five die of heart disease than all cancers combined!7
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an abnormal function of the heart or blood vessels. It can cause an increase in risk for heart attack, heart failure, sudden death, stroke, and cardiac rhythm problems, resulting in decreased quality of life and decreased life expectancy. The causes of cardiovascular disease range from structural defects, to infection, inflammation, environment and genetics.8
The fact is: While so many women worry about breast cancer and the impact it will have on their lives, sexually and otherwise, we should all be worrying about Cardiovascular disease.
The Gramma Sutra is not trying to diminish the impact of breast cancer on women. The fact is that — while breast cancer is routinely feared — heart disease, especially in older women, is not.
Let’s look at some facts about breast cancer from the National Cancer Institute study on Older Women and Breast Cancer. Below is a chart outlining the risks of a woman developing invasive breast cancer over her lifetime.9
30 to 40
1 out of 257 or 0.4 %
40 to 50
1 out of 67 or 1.5 %
50 to 60
1 out of 36 or 2.8 %
60 to 70
1 out of 28 or 3.6 %
70 to 80
1 out of 24 or 4.2 %
So, even in your seventies, your chances of developing breast cancer are 1 in 24, or less than 4.2%. Now let’s look at the numbers for cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) (ICD/10 codes I00-I99, Q20-Q28)
· For the 40 – 59 year old age group, the following have CVD:
o 39.6 % of men and women
· For the 60 – 79 year old age group, the following have CVD:
o 73.6 % of men & 73.1 % of women
(NHANES [2003-2006], NCHS and NHLBI)
So let’s see: For women in the 40 - 59 year range, your odds of getting cancer are around 2%; but your odds of getting Cardiovascular Disease are almost 40%. And, women in the 60 - 80 year old range, your odds of getting cancer are 3.9%, but your odds of getting heart disease are more than 73%.10
The Gramma Sutra has found that the number-one thing hampering a woman’s sex life is not the lack of a partner, health issues, or even ageism. The number one killjoy of a woman’s sex life is . . . death.
It’s hard to have an orgasm when you’re dead. Given that the jury is still out on the whole reincarnation thing, death is the ultimate sex quasher.
Now that we see how cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women, let’s find out how to stop it from killing your sex life — and you.
I thought I was just tired. I lost all desire for sex. Turns out, I didn’t have low libido . . . I had heart disease.
V. Royce Phoenix, AZ
Except for a couple of heart attacks, I’ve never felt better.
Ladies, you haven’t gotten to this gorgeous age without realizing some fundamental truths. Ice cream tastes better in the middle of the night. The first five seconds after a major haircut are some of the most terrifying moments of your life. And women are different than men.
Men are from Mars . . . Men would rather sit through a root canal with no anesthesia than watch a chick-flick. Men also have heart attacks differently.
Women tend to have symptoms of a heart attack that aren’t usually identified as being related to heart disease. In a multi-center study of 515 women who had an acute heart attack (Myocardial Infarction), the most frequently reported symptoms were unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances, shortness of breath, indigestion and anxiety. Okay. Which one of you hasn’t had all or some of these symptoms at some point in your life? All of us, right?
The majority of women (78%) reported at least one symptom for more than one month before their heart attack. Only thirty percent reported chest discomfort, which was described as an aching tightness, pressure, sharpness, burning, fullness, or tingling.11
Think about that ladies. If you are having strange symptoms over several weeks, please see a doctor.
It could be gas. It could be nerves. But, it could also be a heart attack!
If you’re unsure, check and see if your symptoms match the ones listed below.12
Common Symptoms of Heart Attack in Women
· Shortness of breath
· Unusual fatigue
· Cold sweat
· Pain or pressure in the back or high chest
· Pain or discomfort in one or both arms; discomfort may be described as pressure, ache, or tightness, and may come and go
· A burning sensation in the chest or upper abdomen
· Irregular heartbeat
It’s time for a pop quiz.
This quiz could save your life . . . and your libido. Mentally check off the heart disease risk factors that apply to you.13 This is no time to lie about your age, or anything else. The truth will set you free . . . of heart disease.
Risk Indicators for Heart Disease
· Smoking, or daily exposure to second-hand smoke (at home or at work)
· Past heart attack, or known coronary artery disease
· Age: Over 55/Post Menopausal
· Family history of coronary artery disease
· Elevated lipids (over 240 mg/dL. or HDL less than 35 mg/dL)
· Abnormal heartbeat
· High blood pressure
· Birth control pills (in combination with smoking)
· Overweight (by 20 or more pounds)
· Sedentary Lifestyle (This means you, Cathy Couchpotato!)
According to Dr. Matthew Snow of Miami, Florida, smoking is particularly troublesome for both men and women, and is probably the largest reversible cause of sexual dysfunction in males. While most people worry about, and associate smoking with lung cancer — and rightfully so — a minority succumb to cancer, while 100% of smokers get vascular disease. It may not become clinically obvious, but they all get it. The results are premature aging of the skin, coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, which can lead to strokes, decreased memory and dementia, renal disease, as well as vascular insufficiency affecting every vascular bed in the body, including those that contribute to sexual function.
TREATMENT & IMPACT ON SEX
Life is filled with things we can control, and things we can’t control. On the list above, the only things that are not in your control are your age, your family history of disease, and previous heart attack or stroke.
Everything else on that list is in your control. You can quit smoking. You can lose weight. You can get your cholesterol under control. You can get off the couch and onto your husband! Yes, you can!
Changing your life is not easy, but it can be done. The fact that you bought this book means that you want a little something extra out of your sex life. The Gramma Sutra wants you to have a little something extra too — a little extra energy, a little extra skip in your step, a lot of great sex. This requires surviving your sixties and heart disease.
Okay, so you’ve had a heart attack. What now? Can you get back in the saddle again, or are you afraid that any strenuous activity in the bedroom will put you right back in the emergency room?
Turns out, most people can safely rekindle their sex lives within a few weeks of having an uncomplicated heart attack, as long as they feel up to it, and are able to engage in other moderate activities. The key is speaking to your doctor.
The chance that sex will trigger a heart attack is about two in a million in a healthy person without heart disease. In people with heart disease, that risk increases to one in fifty thousand, but this is still extremely low. And no increase in risk is seen in heart attack survivors who exercise regularly.14
Speaking to your doctor will allay your fears about having sex, and will also help you figure out if any of your heart medications can cause low libido. If you are sexually active and you feel that your medications might be causing a decrease in desire, speak to your doctor. Your doctor will be able to find medications that can help your heart heal — without damaging your sex life. [See Appendix B]
Once again exercise is key. According to Dr. Mittleman of Harvard Medical School, “Exercise virtually eliminates the risk of having a heart attack associated with sexual activity.”15 Exercise can help you have sex. Sex is exercise. Really, do I need to draw you a map?
Sex, the wonder drug that works wonders
After my heart attack, my doctor told me I was going to have to eat right, watch my weight, and exercise. I told him I hated going to the gym. He told me to have sex two to three times a week; he even wrote it down on a prescription. My husband had the prescription framed and placed on our bedside table.
S. Turner, Princeton, NJ
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Heart disease is not inevitable. Simply by adopting a proper diet, exercise, and health-monitoring, you may be able to help change the statistics on women and heart disease.
In your sixties, you can begin the journey to heart health. If you have heart disease, it’s not too late. You can still turn it around and prevent further damage to your heart. It’s never too late to work toward a better sex life.
Five Simple Ways to Prevent Heart Disease
Don’t do it! Not smoking or quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your heart and your health.
Also, we all know the adage about what it tastes like to kiss a smoker.
Let’s get physical!
Olivia Newton John was onto something. Moving your body and getting exercise is a key factor in preventing heart disease.
Take up tennis, golf, go swimming, walking, running. The key is to get off the couch and do something. By the way, sex counts as exercise!
Remember when you thought sour cream potato chips were healthy? If you want to keep your heart pumping for the next few decades, start eating right. You know the drill: lots of fruits and vegetables; lots of fish; less meat. This isn’t brain surgery. You can still have the food you love. You just can’t cover it in béarnaise or chocolate sauce, or cook it in a pound of butter. By the way, about the wine and cocktails — moderation, ladies. Nobody likes a postmenopausal drunk!
Watch your weight
No one is saying that you need to look like a stick figure with a head, but you know if your weight has gotten unwieldy. A ten percent reduction in weight can lower your blood pressure, reduce your blood cholesterol levels, and lower your risk for diabetes. It might also mean a reason to go shopping!
Get regular check-ups
See your doctor regularly and get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. Don’t forget to tell the doctor of any changes going on in your body, no matter how small. There are no small symptoms, just large HMO bills. Don’t forget your dentist. Get your teeth cleaned, and get checked out for gum disease, which has a direct correlation to heart disease. If you don’t feel well, call a doctor — not your friends. Unless your friends are doctors, and — if so — I have a daughter who would love to meet a doctor.