This article is especially for mothers who take care of everyone and everything! You also need to take care of yourself. A mother’s heart bears so much; this article will focus on taking care of your heart so that you can continue caring for those around you!
A young mother and daughter enjoying time in the kitchen.
I have written several articles on heart health - but recently attended Living in Vitality (LIV), a women’s health conference in Kansas City, and heard a talk from a female cardiologist, Dr. Michelle Dew. She drove home the point that cardiovascular disease is the primary cause of female deaths - 45%! One in five female deaths occur from cardiovascular disease which includes hypertension, stroke, coronary artery disease, and heart failure.
About 80% of this is preventable!
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women - more than all types of cancer combined.
A woman holding a drawing of the heart over her chest. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women.
Dr. Dew focused on risk factors - those that can be modified and those that cannot. I will start with the non-modifiable and then discuss those which can be controlled.
We can’t change our family history but knowing your medical history is vital in knowing whether you should see a cardiologist.
The words heart disease and stroke on a clipboard next to a stethoscope. Having a family history of early heart disease or stroke is a risk factor.
A family history of early heart disease in a male under age 55 or a female under age 65 (such as an early heart attack or stroke) warrants a discussion with your doctor; this kind of medical history may put you at risk.
Being post-menopause, which leads to an increase in blood pressure and cholesterol, is also a risk factor and a reason for annual checkups.
A history of previous tobacco use is a risk.
Those just listed can’t be changed but the following can.
Hypertension - This is treatable with medication and dietary changes such as controlling weight and salt intake to no more than 2000 mg/day.
High cholesterol - this is also treatable with medication and diet.
Tobacco use, including vaping, is a significant risk factor for vascular disease. Quitting greatly lowers your risk.
Diabetes - You may not be able to reverse this diagnosis, but maintaining good control with a low hemoglobin A1C and as close to normal blood sugar levels is essential.
Weight control and preventing obesity
Exercise - the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week or at least 30 minutes 5 times weekly.
Diet - this is the component you can control the most and impacts many other factors. Heart-healthy dietary changes have been outlined in previous posts but will summarized here:
Reduce sugar intake from all sources including beverages and refined grains (white bread, regular pasta, commercially baked goods, etc.) which are converted to sugar once eaten.
Choose whole grains over refined grains.
Choose protein sources low in saturated fats such as seafood, plant proteins, and low-fat dairy. Buy lean cuts of grass-fed meat and skinless poultry.
Eat vegetables and fruit daily in a variety of colors.
Limit salt intake to less than 2000 mg daily; use more herbs and spices when cooking.
Limit your intake of high-calorie, high-fat sauces.
Choose unsaturated fats such as olive and avocado oils, nuts, avocado, and hummus.
Follow portion sizes.
Limit processed food intake.
Limit alcohol intake - excess alcohol (more than one drink a day - 4 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor) contributes to high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke.
Woman's holding a heart in her hands. Caring for your heart protects you and your family.
Following these recommendations sets an example for your children and safeguards their hearts too. Protect yourself and your family!