When you reconnect with Spirit and your own spirit, seeing yourself as a Smart woman, you have a completely different perspective on health. You realize you have more power than you thought to create wellness because you’re not doing it alone—you’re doing it with the help of the divine feminine force that knows how to cleanse the toxins in her waters, prune away the old growth, and bring forth new life. Of course, you want your health span and lifespan to match up—and they can, allowing you to relish great health. However, you also have to acknowledge your need to access your inner healer, whose wisdom and power are informed by Spirit. Good health starts upstream, with emotions and thoughts—not supplements and medical tests (although those can help). If you have a chronic disease or ailment, you probably already know the basics of managing your medical condition—and you know that stress will worsen the symptoms, while tending to your body’s needs will improve them, sometimes dramatically. But whether you have a medical condition or not, let’s dispel the idea that health is determined by your genes or by the march of time. Too often, discussions of women’s health after 40 focus on fluctuations in the sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone), diseases, and decline. It’s easy to forget that our bodies are designed to repair and replenish our cells and balance our biochemistry. But you’re on your way to adopting a completely new way of looking at health—and at how to balance your systems to optimize your body’s functioning.
Yes, your hormonal system is involved in your state of health, but the hormones you most need to start paying attention to are your stress hormones. You also have to look at the amount of sleep or rest you’re getting, because you need to give your body time to recharge and generate new, healthier cells. And instead of worrying about the diseases of the heart, breast, uterus, ovaries, and brain, you have to support all your organs with good nutrients, pleasurable thoughts and emotions, and activities that are vitally important for your physical health—and I’m not simply talking about moving your body. I’m talking about listening to your ageless soul and expressing love, creativity, and joy. When you look at typical women’s health issues, even as you give your body the physical support it needs, I want you to think beyond the literal and start seeing your state of physical being as reflective of your state of emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Your heart isn’t just a muscle and your pelvis isn’t just the place where your body nurtures a baby. You are so much more than the sum of your parts! Dr. Mario Martinez describes disease as an imbalance of our bodies’ systems over time that eventually leads to measurable pathology. Modern medicine is nothing more than the study of that pathology. When we engage in what Dr. Martinez calls the “causes of health,” we stay way ahead of the pathology curve. It doesn’t matter if the violation took place years earlier; feeling your righteous anger and getting it out of your system can improve your health. No matter what your diagnosis or state of health, know that you can improve it by indulging in behaviours and thoughts that actually improve your health—not just treat disease.
The Secrets of Hormones
Imagine yourself as a cavewoman throwing a big rock at a hissing poisonous snake that’s about to strike, or running away at top speed. Cortisol also temporarily activates the immune system in case the danger isn’t a snake but a bacteria or virus that has entered your system. It sets off an inflammatory response in which white blood cells gather around the pathogen to isolate it before attacking it. This sympathetic nervous system reaction happens very quickly. If you’ve ever seen someone blow up like a balloon on high-dose steroids such as prednisone, you’ve seen the effect of excess stress hormones. Oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone get much more press than cortisol and adrenaline do even though they’re far less likely to adversely affect your health. It’s true that the amounts of these hormones in the body change during the transitional period of perimenopause, and sometimes that shift causes uncomfortable symptoms. But there’s nothing about menopause per se that will plummet you into hormonal hell, rage-aholic behaviour, and a feeling of being lost in a sexual desert. After perimenopause has ended, hormones return to the level of preadolescence, and there’s nothing wrong with those levels. Fatigue, insomnia, low libido, mental sluggishness, irritability, and hot flashes—particularly when they interfere with sleep—do not have to be a part of the premenopausal or menopausal experience. You can reduce these symptoms naturally with a minimal amount of outside hormonal help when necessary. When your hormones are out of balance due to overproduction of cortisol, you feel the effects. You get cravings for sugar—particularly around 4:00 P.M. when cortisol naturally peaks. If you reach for a cupcake rather than taking a short walk to help your body break down the cortisol, you’ll stimulate the adrenal glands further, causing them to release even more cortisol, which will spike your blood sugar levels. Four o’clock is like the PMS stage of the daily cycle; you’re meant to go for a walk, take a nap, or get in touch with your feelings and inner wisdom, not reach for sugar. When you’re aware of and in control of the relationship between your blood sugar, your emotions, your diet, and your exercise patterns, you’ll be far less likely to respond to your cortisol spikes by consuming sugar or alcohol—a move that only worsens your hormonal state.
If you’ve had your uterus and/or ovaries removed—or if you’re too stressed out by hormonal shifts to put the effort into exercising, changing your eating habits, or experiencing pleasure through sex or other means—you may need to check your hormone levels and take steps to adjust them, specifically with either bioidentical hormones or phytoestrogens such as Pueraria mirifica. There are three ways to test hormones: saliva tests, blood tests, and urine tests. If test results and symptoms confirm that you’re low in oestrogen, I suggest that you try taking a phytoestrogen, derived from plant sources (you’ll find specifics on that and other recommended supplements and products in the Resources section). There’s been a lot of confusion on this issue and many women worry unnecessarily that taking a supplement such as black cohosh, maca, flaxseed, or Pueraria mirifica could lead to cancer. Let me be very clear: there is no solid evidence that links phytohormones with cancer. If you were to look at the molecules for plant sterols such as phytoestrogens under a microscope, you would see that their chemical structure is completely different from mammalian oestrogen. They can’t stimulate the growth of oestrogen-sensitive tissues in the same way a prescription hormone would. For the record, broccoli, peanuts, almonds, apples, and many other common foods also contain phytoestrogens. Keep in mind, too, that there’s often no correlation between how a woman feels and what her hormone levels are. I’ve seen women with very low oestrogen and testosterone whose sexual appetite is just fine, and others who have perfectly healthy amounts of testosterone and oestrogen but no sex drive at all. If you rely entirely on a test instead of how you feel to determine what’s going on with you, you can scare yourself into taking medications or supplements you don’t need.
Sleep and Cellular Repair
One of the most common complaints shared by many women is insomnia. Sleep is, hands down, the most effective way to metabolize excess stress hormones, which are the real culprits when it comes to hormone imbalance. Good quality sleep is absolutely essential to hormone health, and reducing stress improves sleep. Fortunately, simple lifestyle changes can make a difference in your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Try the following: Remove all electronic devices, including clocks with lighted displays, from your bedroom. At the very least, cover them at night. Don’t work on a computer or mobile device such as a tablet when you’re winding down for bed. And create a sleep routine of going to bed around the same time every night and sleeping for at least eight hours. Don’t watch the news or an intense movie before turning in for the night, and don’t do any strenuous exercise either. If you feel a hot flash coming on, close your eyes and envision something cool, like sitting inside an igloo. Or take off a layer of clothing and stand in front of a fan. I’m a big supporter of the Chillow pillow, which you fill with water and insert into your pillowcase, where it stays cool throughout the night. Research has also shown that meditation, such as the “relaxation response” in which you close your eyes and repeat a mantra to yourself (such as “peace” or “inhale” and “exhale”) for 20 minutes, reduces hot flashes significantly by reducing the stress hormones that contribute to them. In fact, anything you can do to decrease stress hormones decreases hot flashes. (You can find more ideas for managing menopausal symptoms naturally in The Wisdom of Menopause.) When sleep disruption and hot flashes due to perimenopause are too disruptive, I recommend the herbal supplement Pueraria mirifica. Other helpful tools are valerian, melatonin, and Epsom salts, and you might want to try gels, oils, or bath crystals that promote relaxation.
Having been on the front lines of women’s health for many years, I’ve long been interested in natural approaches to premenopausal and menopausal symptoms, and also substances that help promote women’s health on all levels. Several years ago, I received a call out of the blue from a Dr. Sandford Schwartz in Thailand, a researcher (originally from New York City) who has vast experience with the herb Pueraria mirifica (PM). Dr. Sandy, as he is called, convinced me to investigate the properties of this substance and try it using the patented form known as Pure sterol. There are many different subspecies of PM, and to be effective, the right type of plant must be harvested at the right time by skilled foragers. Then the active ingredients must be standardized. This is what Pure sterol is—a patented standardized extract of the right type of PM from Thailand, where it is sustainably harvested. Impressed with the research—and with the results that women were reporting—I eventually started my own company as a way to get the word out about this substance. The company is called A-ma-ta, a name derived from the Thai word for “ageless.” I wanted women everywhere to have the opportunity to find relief for their premenopausal and menopausal symptoms through using this herb, and to experience its “youthifying” effects. I never thought I’d start my own company—but in doing so, I have the quality control to make sure that women are getting the right amounts and the right formulation. Pueraria mirifica has also been shown to build bone mass, tone the breasts, and relieve vaginal dryness as well as thicken vaginal walls, which tend to become thinner over time and can cause discomfort during intercourse. Women are reporting wonderful results with A-ma-ta products. And this is thrilling to me. “I didn’t know what to expect, if anything,” one user posted on the A-ma-ta website. When Sue was going through a midlife divorce, she found herself waking up at 3:00 A.M. every night, and no matter what she did, this pattern continued. She finally stopped fighting it and instead decided to keep pen and paper nearby to record her dreams and inspirations that came pouring in at that time of night. Within a month, Sue realized that there were stories that wanted to come through her. She began to look forward to her late-night inspirations, and she eventually collected enough material to write a book. Wayne Dyer, Ph.D., writes all of his books in the wee hours of the night. He believes this is when God comes to us most clearly. And though I am not an early-morning writer—my best dreams are always around 7:30 to 8:30 A.M.—I’m well aware that 4:00 A.M. is considered the most yin (dark) time of night, when creative flow is likely to be especially powerful. In fact, this is when both animals and humans are most likely to give birth. And maybe it’s when our souls want to come through to us to help us give birth to our highest selves. So rather than fight insomnia, you may want to consider whether it is a gift connecting you to your creative flow.
A Healthy Heart
Breast cancer has been branded with a pink ribbon, and now heart disease in women has also been branded—with a red dress—because heart disease is the number-one killer of women, surpassing breast cancer. Most people have been brainwashed into thinking that we have to have a disease in order to die. This belief, which robs us of vitality, is reinforced by all our “run for the cure” campaigns—none of which has ever done any good in actually decreasing the risk of getting a disease. It may even be the other way around, since what we resist persists. It’s the Law of Attraction: we become what we think about and worry about the most. So as a first step in dealing with heart disease, breast cancer, or anything else, let’s start fertilizing the idea that it’s completely possible to die disease-free in our sleep when it’s our time! Remember the goal: “Happy, healthy, dead!” There are also some hormonal factors all women should know about. In his research on rhesus monkeys (and, later, on humans), researcher Kent Herms Meyer, Ph.D., showed that natural progesterone, in contrast to synthetic progesterone such as Provera, causes coronary arteries to relax. Many women with angina (heart pain) would do well to use natural progesterone, but they need to avoid the synthetic versions. The famous Women’s Health Initiative study that was stopped abruptly in 2002 used Prempro as the hormone combination of choice for addressing women’s menopause symptoms. The researchers found that using this artificial hormone combo correlated with an increased rate of death from heart disease. In fact, the study showed that the women taking this manmade hormone had a higher risk of heart disease and breast cancer. Since then, the medical profession has changed its tune and is now recommending the lowest dose of hormone for the shortest period of time necessary to relieve symptoms. Here’s more good news: the heart is very forgiving. Forgiving is a big part of its job, after all. It wants and needs to feel free, and carrying around resentment is just too much of a burden. Many people who have suffered heart attacks have healed by living in a wholehearted way that supports the wisdom of their hearts—wisdom that is all about passion, compassion, and loving deeply and freely. Getting things “off your chest” through forgiveness is more important than the effect of hormones on your heart. And the most important person to forgive is yourself. Letting go of your disappointments and harsh self-judgments is crucial for heart health and agelessness.
Mending a Broken Heart
In the year following my divorce, I had my first bout of chest pain. I had picked up my then 16-year-old daughter at camp and had fantasized our reunion and joyful trip home together. My oldest had already gone off to college, so I had both an empty nest and an empty bed after 24 years of marriage. My sun and several other planets are in Libra, the sign of partnership, so my natural state is one of partnering. But my soul had decided that I was ready for an upgrade in this department. I needed to learn to be alone and not panic. The universe had ensured that I would start to lose people close to me so I could learn to loosen my attachments to others. When I picked up my daughter at camp, she promptly fell asleep in the car, leaving me to drive for three hours without any conversation. I was very aware of being alone with my thoughts. When we got home, she bounded into the house and started calling her friends. So much for a cherished reunion! I felt like a fifth wheel, just someone who paid the bills and drove the car. As I stood in the driveway, I had my first bout of chest pain. It radiated into my neck, and I knew that the pain was connected to my heart—but I also knew that it wasn’t a heart attack. Still, I had an EKG and blood pressure taken to be sure. Everything was okay. My heart pain’s purpose that day was to awaken me to my need to grow and to let go so that my daughter didn’t have to stifle her own growth to meet my need for partnership. Over the ensuing years, I developed this same heart pain about twice a year. And each time, the chest pain served as a kind of warning about a difficult emotional lesson that I still needed to learn. The pain never lasted more than 15 minutes. Heart disease runs in my family, but so does something else: a pattern of “smoothing things over,” “keeping the peace,” and “keeping things close to the chest.” Getting things “off my chest” and being 100 percent honest about my true feelings, no matter how uncomfortable, was hard for me. All of those painful feelings were rooted in heartbreak about not having the love relationship I longed for.
The truth is that I had a big load of healing to do. I knew intellectually that I had to complete myself—to figure out how to be “whole, and complete, and lacking in nothing” (a description Unity minister Jill Rogers uses in her workshop The Seven Sacred Steps). But it’s one thing to know a concept intellectually and quite another to embody it—to really, truly feel whole, and complete, and lacking in nothing whether or not you’re in a relationship. This is especially true for a single woman in her ageless years who loves romance novels! I had no lack of male attention, especially once I learned how to surrender to a man’s lead in tango. It’s just that almost none of the men who were attracted to me held any appeal for me other than as friends, and the two who did were not available. It was a heart-breaking pattern for me. I would think, Oh, thank God. I’ve finally met a man who really turns me on, isn’t jealous of my success, is fit and healthy, and is attracted to me. But once again, he’s emotionally unavailable because of issues in his own life. Really? Are you kidding me? Oh, the drama of my heartbreak! “Am I destined to be alone forever?” she says as she falls to the earth emitting heart-wrenching sobs. The first step toward truly healing my heart was simply acknowledging the truth of what I was feeling: no judgment, no covering up, no shaming. And I am absolutely convinced that if I had not done serious emotional work to heal my past and my relationship patterns , I would indeed have had a heart attack sooner or later. Or maybe I would have developed breast cancer. Instead, I transformed years of heartbreak into a wise, healed heart full of compassion for myself and others. Then I was able to let go of my need to cling to the people I loved with a death grip! While many people are addicted to tobacco, alcohol, and food, my addiction of choice was relationships (an addiction often called codependence). By unflinchingly identifying this for what it truly was, and turning it over to God (about a million times!), I was able to nourish my heart’s health. My heart is now free, happy, and whole. What a revelation! What a relief! This is true heart disease prevention. I want the same for you!
How to Love Your Heart
Appreciate that your heart is the energetic center of your body. Like the Sun that is at the center of our solar system, your heart is the central “sun” that fuels every system in your body. Recognize that your heart always wins. When there’s conflict between what you think and what you feel, what you feel wins—every time. If you don’t listen to your heart trying to express its feelings, it may take an illness to get you to pay attention. That phrase “her heart just wasn’t in it” when a relationship, job, or life dies is the truth. If your heart’s not in it, why are you in it? Forgive yourself and others. Forgiveness is powerful physical medicine. Research has shown that resentment and hostility are very substantial risk factors for heart attacks. On the other hand, that old phrase “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine” is also true. Holding on to resentments and anger will age you. Forgiveness is not about the other person. It is about calling back your own worthiness from whoever or whatever hurt you and freeing yourself from the entrapment of the past. Focus on what you love and what you find beautiful in order to calm your fight-or-flight reactions. Research by leading neuroscientist Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin has shown via functional MRI scans of healthy brains that a structure called the fusiform gyrus on the underside of the brain works in counterpoint to the amygdala, the primitive center that signals danger and the fight-or-flight response. The fusiform gyrus recognizes things we love and appreciate. The more we focus on what we love and value, the more enhanced the function of the fusiform gyrus and the calmer the amygdala. We become rewired for love, not fear. Create cardiac coherence. Cardiac coherence comes when you smooth out erratic patterns of your heart rate so that your heart doesn’t shift quickly from a relaxed state to beating quickly in response to perceived danger when there’s no real threat to your safety. You can train your heart to be less reactive to emotional stressors so you don’t regularly experience fight-or-flight responses to everyday life. One way to achieve cardiac coherence and an optimum heart rate variability (HRV) is by using a biofeedback device such as the emWave from the Institute of HeartMath. You can also meditate, practice mindful breathing, or, as I said, regularly think about what you value and love. Watch movies and listen to music that makes you feel loving and loved. Spend time looking at pictures of things you value: your kids, puppies, sleeping babies, fine art, nature scenes, or whatever. Over time, you can learn how to create this healthy heart state at will simply by tuning in to the exalted emotions associated with things you love.
Listen to what is truly in your heart. Change or release old thought patterns and beliefs that no longer serve you. My chest pain is healed and so is my heart. I’m perfectly comfortable and happy with my life right now because I have learned to put the Divine first—not a man. Getting to this point has been, quite frankly, harder than medical school, harder than enduring several lawsuits, and harder than going through a divorce. It has also been infinitely more rewarding and exhilarating—and it’s been the work for which I was born. I have finally succeeded in creating the sacred marriage of male and female within myself—the hieros gamos. You, too, have a heart that was designed to be whole, complete, and healed, and this has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not you have a partner. Once your pain has transformed and you have a solid connection with the Divine Beloved within, you’ll find that joy and optimism are your natural state of being. Then, ageless living is natural. Eat quality foods, especially vegetables, and also healthy fats to support a healthy heart and express love to it, but don’t obsess about what’s on your plate. Avoid processed foods, refined sugar, and trans fats (hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, often found in snack foods and packaged desserts) as much as possible. In the last 70 years, we have increased the amount of these foods in our diets while decreasing the amount of plant foods rich in antioxidants. This dietary change coincides with the rise of heart disease. The trans fats and sugars cause oxidative stress that’s toxic to the endothelial lining of blood vessels unless you have enough antioxidants in your system to counteract them. Experience the exalted emotions! Schedule pleasurable activities into your life regularly, as this will open your heart and help keep it fit. Dancing, going to movies and concerts, eating out with friends, giving or receiving massages, playing with your dog or cat—whatever makes you feel great, do it regularly. We tend to eat too much sugar or drink too much alcohol to quell painful emotions because of their opiate effect. Seeking pleasure and comfort is the pathway out. We humans are hardwired that way. However, importing chemical “pleasure” is not sustainable. It’s addictive. Instead, treat yourself to activities that are inherently pleasurable.
Move, and enjoy moving. The body is designed to move so that your blood, lymph fluid, and oxygen can all circulate. Exercise promotes a healthy heart, but pleasurable movement is especially good for the heart. And remember, simply standing up 32 times a day if you sit at a computer can work wonders for preventing toxins from building up and cells from becoming damaged. Connect with Divine Love. Your heart is fueled by this more than any other factor. Simply ask the Divine to help you feel your connection—and then, listen. Say “Divine Love now manifests in my heart. And now fuels my life.”
Cholesterol and the Heart
The same old myths about cholesterol and the heart continue to circulate even though research confirms that dietary cholesterol and high cholesterol are not risk factors for heart disease. In fact, your brain and nervous system are largely made of cholesterol, a vital substance manufactured in the body (which is why, when you eat animal products, you consume cholesterol). It’s used to produce vitamin D and certain hormones, among other functions. In fact, when your overall cholesterol is too low, your body can’t manufacture enough hormones to keep your system running efficiently. Depression often results, and the lower your cholesterol, the lower your testosterone and sex drive. Cholesterol is an important building block for hormones related to the libido. Molecules called LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein) are actually cholesterol transporters that take this vital substance to cells that need it and transport the excess to your organs, which process and excrete it. The role of HDL is to cart away excess cholesterol so the liver can process it. The job of LDL is to deposit cholesterol at receptor sites on the membranes of cells. LDL is only a problem when it becomes oxidized by free radicals. A free radical is a molecule that becomes unstabilized by losing an electron and seeks to steal an electron from another area to make up for the one that’s missing. Traditionally, doctors have said that LDL is “bad cholesterol,” but that’s an inaccurate description. There’s more than one type of LDL. LDL-B is dense and small and more likely to become oxidized than the other types of LDL, LDL-A and LDL-1. Oxidized LDL is big and sticky and doesn’t interface properly with the cellular receptors seeking cholesterol. It holds on to the cholesterol and ends up sticking to the linings of inflamed arteries, forming the beginning of plaque.
To counteract this process, you need to be sure you have enough antioxidants in the body to prevent LDL and the lining of your blood vessels from becoming oxidized. Dietary cholesterol doesn’t cause the LDL to oxidize; free radicals do. Aim for a diet that is free of trans fats, which both raise bad LDL and lower good HDL, and free of excess sugars that cause LDL to become oxidized. A diet high in sugars and low in fibber increases the amount of fat in your blood (the triglycerides), which then becomes stored in your body. And remember that even whole grains turn to sugar. Some people are far more sensitive to grains than others are, so pay attention to your body’s response to them and keep an eye on your blood sugar levels. Triglycerides (TG) are an independent risk factor for heart disease, and high levels are almost always related to eating a high-glycaemic diet in which blood sugar gets spiked regularly. In general, TG levels should be 150 or lower, and on the cholesterol tests most doctors use, HDL is supposed to be above 45 (above 67 is ideal) and LDL at 130 or below. Your ratio of HDL to total cholesterol (total cholesterol divided by HDL) is a much more accurate predictor of heart disease than total cholesterol alone. If your ratio is 4.0 or under, you’re fine. Don’t let anyone put you on a statin drug just because of your total cholesterol number! Today, though, there’s an even more accurate cholesterol test available: an NMR lipid profile, which can tell you the number and size of your LDL and HDL particles as well as measure your level of triglycerides. Just as with LDL, not all HDL particles are the same. HDL-1 is smaller and denser than HDL-2, and it’s more likely to become oxidized. What you want are the bigger, lighter particles—and you can get those from saturated fat in your diet. If you have a very high LDL count, it may be because you’ve got lots of the small LDL-B particles and not many LDL-A particles. A high LDL count may not be a problem because it may simply indicate that you’ve got a lot of big, light LDL-A. High HDL on a standard cholesterol test is equally misleading—if they’re not the small, dense particles, then a high HDL is very good. Note that your physician will have to order this type of cholesterol test online (see Resources).
For a healthy heart, eat eggs and organic meats from fish and animals raised as naturally as possible. Whole grains, and sugars that aren’t consumed with fibber in the form of whole fruit, are a problem. I advocate what’s called a Palaeolithic diet, which is close to what our ancestors ate before the agricultural era 10,000 years ago when grains such as wheat and rice became the staples of the human diet. Mostly, you eat plants, but you also have some eggs, meats, fish, and nuts as well as some healthy oils such as organic olive oil and coconut oil, and a small amount of natural sugars such as honey, berries, and stevia. And you can follow this type of diet even if you are vegan and want to avoid all animal foods. Even though eating a Paleo diet will increase the amount of saturated dietary fat you take in, it will not result in unhealthy cholesterol levels or harm your heart. If you want to protect your heart, reduce cellular inflammation and damage to the walls of the arteries by cutting sugars and stress, expressing your feelings, and moving your body pleasurably. Regular exercise, meditation, and focusing on the causes of health will raise healthy HDL. If you and your doctor are concerned about your cholesterol, be ultra-cautious about using statin drugs, which are overprescribed. High cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease. Cellular inflammation is. Lowering LDL using statins won’t prevent disease—in fact, half of all people who get heart disease don’t even have high cholesterol! If your total cholesterol level is lower than 240 to 275 mg/dl, and your HDL is 60 or above, I certainly don’t recommend statins to lower your cholesterol. They have serious side effects that include increased risk of breast cancer, dementia, muscle pain (known as myositis), and heart attack because they can deplete your body of coenzyme Q10, a vital nutrient that produces energy in the mitochondria of the cells. Also, keep in mind that statins are less effective in women than in men. And excessively low cholesterol, especially in women over age 50, correlates with early death, depression, and greater risk of cancer. If you don’t have cardiovascular disease, lowering your cholesterol won’t lower your mortality. If you do have cardiovascular disease, statins may reduce cardiovascular events, like heart attack, but not your mortality overall. In other words, if you have cardiovascular disease, start taking action to improve your heart’s health—don’t rush to get on statin drugs. Bottom line: High cholesterol is not the cause of most heart attacks. And lowering cholesterol without addressing cellular inflammation and the longing of your heart is not very effective.