February, it’s the month of loooovvee and America’s Heart Month – two good reasons to consider the health of your heart, mama.
Like most Americans, I used to think of heart disease as a man’s disease. I often worried my mom may get diabetes or cancer as she aged, but I never really thought about her getting heart disease. But, boy was I misinformed. The statistics for women and heart disease are actually pretty scary. Now that I’m a mom too, these risks are even more important for me to pay to attention to. If I miss the risks and signs of heart disease, I may not be here to see my son grow up. That thought brings me to tears. Sounds dramatic, but when you hear the stats and the surprising signs of risk, you might not think so.
Heart disease is the number #1 killer of women, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer (American Heart Association, AHA)
Heart disease is the third most common cause of death among women ages 25 to 44 years old (Centers for Disease Control)
Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease (AHA)
90% of all women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease (AHA)
What do those stats say to you? They told me to wake up and get my ass back in a regular exercise routine. They also told me to make changes for a healthy heart now, not in 20 years like I previously thought. So, what are the risk factors and what can busy moms like us do about them?
The most common risk factors flagged by doctors include:
- High total cholesterol
- High LDL cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- High trigylcerides
- BMI above normal for your height and weight
By the time you’ve enter a risk category and your doctor flags an issue, it can be too late. Instead use the three simple signs below to understand if you’re at risk.
Simple Signs Your Heart May Be In Danger
Muffin top – You’ve got belly fat. I know it’s hard to get rid of once you’ve had a baby. Our abs will never be quite the same, but belly fat is a bad sign. If you have more than 1-2 inches of belly fat, it’s time to make slow, simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. Thin women with belly fat are more at risk for early death than people who are obese. Read more about these findings here.
Physical Inactivity – If the most rigorous activity you get is pushing your kid on the swing set, listen up. I will be the first to tell you it is very easy to fall into a rut with exercise, especially in the winter. We have little time for work, family and life never mind pilates class. Add childcare to the cost of a yoga class and it’s getting pretty expensive to sweat. On the flipside, only thirty minutes a day of moderate exercise is required to reduce your risk of heart disease by 30-40%!
Sugar cravings – Ask any holistic nutrition expert about sugar cravings and they’ll say if you crave sugar, you’re likely eating too much of it. Pretty much every thing we eat in a package these days has added sugar. Don’t believe me, check out your favorite packaged foods. Some yogurts and tomato sauces have more sugar than Oreos! This excess sugar gets converted to triglycerides which becomes unhealthy fat. Plus sugar has been shown to lower HDL cholesterol, the kind we want to be high for protective health. Read Dr. Mark Hyman’s latest article on sugar causing heart attacks.
If you’re concerned, check out the AHA’s website for an online quiz on assessing your risk of developing heart disease in the next 10 years. In the meantime, commit to adopting as many of the simple tips listed below for improving your heart health today.
Simple Tips to Help Busy Mamas Have a Healthy Heart
- Take the stairs
- Make walking part of your routine (buy snow/rain outerwear so there’s no excuses!)
- Snack on raw nuts, like walnuts, which boost heart hearth
- Swap real granola or oatmeal for ready-made-cereals
- Choose packaged foods with no added sugar (or opt for foods with natural sugars like honey or maple syrup)
- Eat more veggies
- Add in green or black tea to crowd out most sugar-laden morning coffee drinks
- Swap in flavored soda water or seltzers for soda
- Add simple exercises to your normal routine like squats in the bathroom or crunches during evening television
- Work with a health coach to guide you through making small changes that actually fit your family’s lifestyle (Mention this post to receive a 30% off on a single session.)
If you’re at risk, tell us in the comments what steps you’re taking to ensure you’ll be around for your kids and grandkids.