Heart to Hartman

Health Guide for Congenital Heart Disease

This One is for the Ladies

Having trouble maintaining or losing weight as you ages this you? Is this you?  “I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted because I knew I could work it off in a few days, but not anymore!”  Why?  It is so frustrating!  I have heard people say they have given up all sweets and only lost a pound in 2 months.  Others try to drop below 1000 calories a day just to lose a few pounds. What is going on?!

As a consequence of aging, our estrogen levels deplete.  Estrogen is not only essential for our reproductive health, but it also aids in digestion and leveling out blood glucose (aka blood sugar).  Estrogen mitigates the effects of cortisol and insulin, both of which affect our blood glucose levels. Insulin rises when we eat.  If we eat a lot of sugar or starch, our blood glucose will rise higher.  Insulin promotes the clearing of this glucose from the blood by helping it enter the muscles and liver. Estrogen makes our muscles more sensitive to insulin, thus it easier to clear the glucose out of the blood and into the muscle when we have lots of estrogen. Cortisol makes our blood glucose levels rise at a slower rate than insulin to help us “fight” through our stressful days. So, stress can also add to weight gain.  Our blood does not want all that glucose. Thus, when our muscles and liver (the tanks that store the glucose) are full, the glucose will be stored as far, often around our waistlines.  As we approach menopause, we become more sensitive to the effects of carbohydrates (aka, sugar!) and stress. To compound the problem, estrogen also promotes healthy digestion.  With a lack of estrogen, you may notice bloating or constipation. What’s a girl to do? 

First, have a conversation with your physician.  Hormone replacement may be right for you, but it is not for everyone.  In the meantime, the obvious is limit simple sugars, like cakes, pasta, candy, bread etc. But other foods can also increase blood glucose like starchy carbs such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, and oatmeal.  Obviously, we need to eat these foods for the nutrients, but limit them. So, what is a non-starchy vegetable? Here is a list that will help.  Try eating a lot more from this list over the next month and a lot less starchy food and see if you do not start to feel better and lose a few pounds.


  • Spinach
  • Romain, red or green leaf lettuce,
  • Turnip, mustard, and collard greens
  • Swiss Chard


  • Arugula
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Radish
  • Bok Choy
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Kale

Root Vegetables

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Parsnips

Allium Vegetables

  • Onion
  • Chives
  • Shallots
  • Garlic

Other non-starchy vegetables

  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Crook Neck squash
  • Butternut Squash (right in the middle)
  • Pumpkin
  • Asparagus
  • Okra
  • Egg Plant

Try experimenting with these.  You can make a butternut squash omelet, add spinach, arugula, sweet potato, or pumpkin to a smoothie. Blend beets or radishes into dips.

Another important reason to eat a lot of vegetables is the nutrient content and inflammation fighting effect of those nutrients. You already have a chronic disease. Protect yourself from getting another one like coronary artery disease, or type II diabetes. Your risk for acquiring these and other diseases increases as you age anyway so you have to do all you can to stay healthy.

As always, exercise! Get your cardio and your strength training in. And manage your stress.

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Heart to Hartman

Health Guide for Congenital Heart Disease


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