This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of The Heart Truth®. All opinions are 100% mine.
February is American Heart Month. Obviously, we should take care of our heart every month, but during February, organizations like the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute really step up their efforts to get the word out about heart disease. Did you know that heart disease is still the #1 killer of women in the United States? It’s true. Of all the women who died in 2013 in the US, one in four women died of heart disease.
I think most of us have been touched in some way by heart disease. My grandmother passed away 8 years ago this month from heart disease-related complications. She had congestive heart failure for years. Up until I started nursing school, I thought “heart failure” meant “the end.” As in, the heart fails, stops working, it’s over. As a nursing student, I learned that it can be a long-term condition, in which the heart is failing to pump normally (or adequately). My gran was managing her heart disease for quite a while. All of the sudden, though, it got worse. She ended up in the hospital and spent a few very scary days under observation and medication. When she was sent home, we thought all was well. Then my aunt called to tell us that she had passed away. I still remember every last minute of that phone call. My grandmother helped raise me. She was my grandmother and second mother all in one. For someone like me who doesn’t handle loss well, it’s been a long, bumpy road through the grieving process and I’m still not quite to acceptance. I miss her every day.
Honoring Our Loved Ones with Heart-Healthy Actions
The best way we can honor our loved ones- and all the other women lost to heart disease- is by making a promise to ourselves and our own loved ones to lead a more heart-healthy life.The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI) The Heart Truth® program wants to make sure every woman understands the risks as well as ways to reduce their chances of getting heart disease. Today, I’m sharing my own advice From the Heart for easy ways that you can take heart-healthy actions. These include:
- Getting your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked regularly: high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol are two major risk factors for heart disease. During your regular checkups, ask your doctor about blood work to check your cholesterol levels. During your visit, ask your doctor if he feels you should invest in a home blood pressure monitoring device. He’ll give you advice on which to choose.
- Know your family history: a family history of early heart disease also puts you at a great risk, so it’s important to know your family’s medical history (to the best of your ability). Take the time to sit down with your parents (and grandparents, if you still have them) and write down the basic medical information about everyone. This is also a great opportunity to bond and gather other stories for future generations!
- Schedule in time for physical activity: We’re all so busy these days that it’s easy to say “oops, I forgot to exercise this week!” Yet being inactive (getting less than 2.5 hours of physical activity each week) is another risk factor. Write it on your calendar, make it a standing appointment. Think about it: 2.5 hours breaks down to 30 minutes every week day. Make it fun! No one said you have to run in place on a treadmill for two hours. Find something you love and do it.
- Plan FUN heart-healthy meals: Guess what? Heart-healthy meals don’t have to be boring. Give yourself a challenge to find two amazing new recipes every week that are super good for you. A couple fun ideas include buying a world map, then challenging yourself to find a heart-healthy recipe from each country or making a list of your favorite comfort foods and finding healthier ways to recreate them. If you turn it into a challenge or something exciting, eating healthy becomes a game instead of a bore.
- Know the risk factors: Knowledge is power, my friends. Knowing the risk factors for heart disease can go a long way to helping you decrease your risk. I’ve mentioned a few already. Other risk factors include: diabetes, smoking, being overweight, having a history of preeclampsia (I have to watch out because of this), unhealthy eating, and simply being age 55 or older. Eighty percent of women ages 40 to 60 have one or more of these risks.
Share a Gift #FromTheHeart
The Heart Truth is encouraging everyone to give a gift #FromTheHeart this month. By that, they mean a heart-healthy gift! My heart-healthy gift to my mom From the Heart is a stress-free night watching our favorite shows without interruption. De-stressing is a vital part of reducing your risk of heart disease. I know it’s not always easy If you’re a giant stress-ball like me, though, it HAS to be done. Long-term stress dumps all sorts of chemicals into your body that, in the long run, could actually damage your heart.
We’ll knock off work a little early and queue up the DVR. I’ll order out heart-healthy selections from a gourmet restaurant (because me and cooking equals stress for all!) so we don’t have to worry about dishes, and just chill for a few hours without any worries.
Wear Red on February 5th to Spread Awareness
February 5th is National Wear Red Day, so don those scarlet duds for a cause! Let everyone know that you’re wearing red to raise awareness about women’s heart disease. If you work outside the home, inspire your whole office to go red that day. Get your kids involved, send them off to school in red (if they don’t have uniforms).
Want to learn more? Join The Heart Truth and the American Heart Association for a Twitter #HeartChat on National #WearRedDay, February 5. Follow @TheHeartTruth for more details!
What are your favorite easy, actionable ways to lead a more heart-healthy life? Do you have a great idea for a gift Fron the Heart to help spread awareness about heart disease? Share your tips below!