“Heart disease is extremely and dangerously hereditary. You MUST take care of yourself”…were the words of my dad’s surgeon to me ten years ago when my dad had his first heart attack.
My mom, brother and I were walking down a hall in St. David’s hospital right after we learned my dad had survived the kind of heart attack they call the “widow maker” (because no one normally lives through it), and had just been informed of his impending quadruple bypass surgery. The doctor asked me to hang back a bit and in the most serious and concerned way told me that my dad ONLY lived because he was in such great physical health….that heart disease is a major killer and that I, most likely because of my dad’s genes, would have to be extra vigilant with my heart health.
My dad ended up living through the surgery, making a full recovery, and had almost ten more years of a full life before he passed away last year of another heart attack. Those doctor’s words have always stuck with me…I think mostly because he didn’t HAVE to tell me that, much less show the concern he did. Ten years ago when this happened, I was twenty-three and pregnant with my first baby…heart health was the least of my concerns, as I was the picture of health and still in that “invincible” mindset as most early twenty-somethings are. But now my outlook has changed. Not only with the passing of my dad, but the responsibility of four children and a husband to care for, knowing that I passed those genes to my kids makes me even more dedicated to bringing them up and teaching them about a healthy, long-term lifestyle.
With February being heart month, I thought I’d share a few facts and tips about heart disease. And while most of us moms don’t yet have the concern on our radar, it’s never too early to start living conscious of our own heart health…and maybe more immediately, the health of our mothers’.
- Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the U.S…more than all the cancers combined.
- Most heart attacks occur on Mondays. (Crazy, right?)
- Good dental hygiene can reduce your chance of a heart attack by 50%!
- Stop smoking…even if it’s just a few ciggs when you’re out with your friends. Seriously stop it.
- Reduce your salt intake. Read labels…sodium is in EVERYTHING.
- Make time for cardio. Many moms do cardio to lose baby weight, so here’s another great reason to keep it up!
- Ever so often, do a moderate detox to cleanse and reset your eating habits. I love this one from Dr. Oz.
- Realize your risk factors. Do your family research…do (did) your parents or grandparents suffer from heart disease? Being informed is key.
- The BEST foods for heart health:
- Red Wine
- Dark Chocolate
While there are many more tidbits one can learn about women’s heart disease, the most important one is to not make excuses. Take ownership of your health…yes it’s a bit more expensive to eat healthy, yes it takes time to exercise, yes it might not be as fun to forego that cigarette…but as moms, we hopefully can see the longterm goals of our health, especially for our children. My dad died way too young. He wasn’t even 60. I know for me, I want to be alive to see my grandchildren grow up and get married…and setting that goal for myself starts with healthy live today, not sometime in my 40’s or 50’s. Later in life is when our health habits from our 20’s and 30’s manifest themselves, so don’t delay.
I challenge you to incorporate at least one of the above tips into your life today…just one. You’ll be that much closer to a healthier heart than yesterday!