Today marks the last Friday of Go Red for Women Month, so I’m going to share my heart health story with you.
Heart health has been an important issue for me the past four years. (Until then, I was under the impression that my high metabolism was a sign of a healthy heart.) I specifically remember my sophomore year of college, when I had the realization that heart problems were bound to become part of my life if I didn’t take care of myself.
See, a number of my living family members suffer from some heart condition or another. Both of my parents are on medication for hypertension, and my grandmother has had multiple open heart operations. And here was the biggest wake-up call: I also realized that many of my deceased family members–at least two grandparents, as well as two uncles–had passed away due to heart problems. And that’s only the heart health history that I know about. I knew I had to do something to protect my heart, and that something couldn’t wait until I was in my 30s or 40s–I had to make a change pronto.
The first big change I made happened in April 2010, when I decided to cut pork (for it’s high sodium content) and red meat (for it’s high fat content) from my diet–though I do still eat deer meat on occasion, since it has the health qualities of leaner, light meat. I realize this may not work for everyone, but I think it definitely helped me reduce my sodium and fat intake. It’s still worth the harassment I get from burger-, steak- and bacon-fanatics. And I don’t even miss those kinds of foods (most of the time).
Additionally, I try to manage what I’m eating–sodium, sugars, fats, carbs and so on. I try to cook at home more than I eat out to ensure that I know what’s in my food, and I try to make as much from scratch as financially and physically possible. (That’s where my meal-planning comes in handy.)
The hardest part for me in all this heart health business is getting the exercise I need. It’s so much easier to place higher importance on other things like writing or cooking or cleaning than on working out. And, honestly, I often just forget that I need to do it. (Plus, I hate cardio! Darn that evil necessity.) But it is an important part of heart health, and it’s something I’m working to improve. (Right now, I’m focusing on yoga. I know yoga doesn’t do as much as cardio does for my heart, but I figure I have to start somewhere.)
I’m certainly not perfect and I do slip up (and sometimes it takes awhile for me to get back on track, particularly in the exercise department), but it feels good knowing that I am doing something to keep myself and my heart healthy.
Staying heart-healthy is a lifestyle. While you don’t have to completely renovate your diet (as in what you consume–definitely not a fad diet), making small changes to ensure you are feeding yourself good things can make your heart stronger and healthier. (And remember: you don’t have to sacrifice good-tasting food for good-for-you food.) Watch your sodium and sugar intake, and eat good fats (like those in fish) and complex carbs (like whole oats). Get your heart pumping with some fun exercise, and be sure to get plenty of rest (most doctors recommend 8 hours). And, probably most importantly, moderation is key. Too much of anything–good or bad–can be a bad thing.
For more information about heart disease in women and what you can do to prevent it, visit goredforwomen.org.
Spread the word about women’s heart health by joining Blog Your Heart Out day today. Speak up: write, tweet and talk about heart health today to increase awareness about heart disease.
(This post is in participation of Blog Your Heart Out day, part of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign and co-sponsored by Fitlosophy, Inc. My intention is to raise awareness about women’s heart health; I am not affiliated with Fitlosophy, the American Heart Association or the Go Red for Women campaign.)