Friday, Februrary 3rd is National Wear Red Day®. This day was meant to bring attention to the fact that heart disease is the #1 killer of women. This means that it is very likely that a woman you know will die of heart disease. By wearing red on National Wear Red day it shows that you support the efforts being made by the American Heart Association and other research institutes to curb the number of deaths that are caused by heart disease. So, along with wearing red, I urge you to consider one or two of these ways to love your heart this February.
1. Get a check-up and know your numbers:
As moms we so often put ourselves last as a priority. Maybe for you this means that you have been putting off a physical. At this point in our lives it is important to get an idea of where we stand with “the numbers” — cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and body mass index. By knowing these numbers, along with your family history, you and your doctor can get an idea of your risk of future heart events.
2. Know the symptoms:
I know what some of you may be thinking, “I’m too young for a heart attack.” While it is true it is less likely for a younger woman to have a heart attack, it’s not impossible. When I worked in cardiac rehab, I saw women — active, thin, 40 year old women who had a heart attack! What many people don’t know is that the symptoms, or warning signs, in women can differ greatly than our male counterparts. Women can feel the “typical” symptoms such as chest pressure or pain. However, according the the American Heart Association women are more likely than men to experience nausea, shortness of breath, back or jaw pain.
3. Amp up your activity:
Recently my daughter was taking laps around our living room and in one of her brief moments of rest I had her place her hand over her heart. I asked her, “Do you feel how fast your heart is beating?” She looked up at me wide-eyed as I said, “That’s your heart exercising, too”. In our home we talk about how exercise keeps our muscles strong and our bones healthy. But, there is no greater demonstration that I can make to her than to keep up with my own exercise program. I can’t say that I go above and beyond the recommendations. I will never run a marathon (truth: I don’t really like running). But, I do make an effort to get the 150 minutes of moderate level exercise per week that the American Heart Association recommends. Usually, this is a brisk and hilly walk outside or on my treadmill. That’s all it takes!
4. Divvy up your plate:
There are so many diet recommendations out there related to heart health — reduce the salt, cut the sugar, eat eggs, don’t eat eggs, etc. There can be a lot of controversy when it comes to diet recommendations. However, my favorite practical recommendation is The Plate Method of food distribution. What this means is once your plate is full, 1/2 should be from fruits and vegetables, 1/4 should be a source of protein, and 1/4 should be a carbohydrate or a starch. The reason I love this recommendation is because it usually works for my daughter’s plate, too. It’s even EASIER for her because so many of her plates have “compartments” and I just make sure to put her vegetables in the largest compartment.
5. Be mindful:
We’ve all been there… our threenager is throwing her 9th tantrum of the day, the baby is clawing at you to nurse and you are making every attempt to get dinner ready. You can feel your blood pressure ticking upward. As moms we are under constant stress. At any one moment there are 1,000 different thoughts passing through our minds. Chronic stress and anxiety is becoming a well known risk factor for heart disease. But, there are ways to combat stress. Meditation and yoga are awesome go-to’s to practice mindfulness. But, what do you do in the heat of the moment (remember the above scenario?) I used to encourage my patients to try a version of breathing called “6/4 breathing”. What this means is that you inhale for six seconds and exhale for four seconds. This results in your breathing to be slowed down to 10 breaths per minute!
Do something for yourself this month! Your kids, and your heart, will thank you! And… GO RED!