February, it’s the month of loooovvee and America’s Heart Month – two good reasons to consider the health of your heart. Like most Americans, I’ve thought of heart disease as a man’s disease. I often worried my mom may get diabetes or cancer as she aged, but I never considered the possibility that she’d get heart disease. Yikes – I was misinformed!
The statistics for women and heart disease are quite scary. Now that I’m a mom and reaching middle age, the risks are even more important for me to pay to attention to. It brings me to tears that I could miss my children growing up if I don’t pay attention to the risks and signs associated with heart disease in women. That might sound dramatic, but take a look for yourself:
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)
Read more statistics on the AHA website.
What do you make of these statistics? When I considered them, I realized it’s time to make regular exercise a priority in our family life. i also remembered that creating a healthy heart now is critical for warding off future risks. You are likely aware of the most most common risk factors associated with heart disease including: high LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, high triglcyerides or history of smoking. But, 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. Believe me, i have battled this myself after my second child. 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 each day is pushing your kiddos 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 a 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%! It’s time to find activity you love and stick with it!
Sugar cravings – if you’re craving sugar, it’s likely that you are eating too much of it on a daily basis (or you have an underlying condition such as candida). Sugar is ubiquitous and found in 99% of all packaged foods. Surprised? 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 (higher HDL is protective for your heart). Read Dr. Mark Hyman’s 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 functional nutritionist and certified health coach (like me!) to guide you through making small changes that actually fit your family’s lifestyle
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.