February is National Heart Month, and today happens to be Wear Red Day (for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute). so i wore red today (i even changed my outfit 3 times) in honor of those who have heart, lung or blood disease and to promote living a lifestyle that is healthy for these vital organs.
having a healthy heart isn't just something that i think is important because i have read about it and learned about it and seen pictures of diseased hearts. this is personal.
when i was 17 my mom had a heart attack. it wasn't a major heart attack, but she did have to spend a few days in the hospital and continues to take aspirin (a blood thinner). she also changed a lot about her fairly healthy lifestyle. she now exercises 90 minutes each morning, takes vitamins, and rarely eats sweets or high fat foods. when my mom was in the hospital i was given time to think about life, and death, and my own health. my mom was never purposefully unhealthy. we never eat fast food, she does not smoke or drink, and a snack in my family means a slice of homemade whole wheat bread or an apple. however, i am not blind to the fact that there were things my mom (and by default, my family) could have done better. my mom was very young when she had a heart attack, and it was scary. i want to live in a way that prevents against heart disease and which promotes a healthy heart.
the Mayo Clinic gives five strategies to living a heart-healthy lifestyle.
1. Don't smoke or use tobacco.
2. Exercise for 30 minutes 5 days a week- you can ride a bike, go running, swim, do pilates or aerobics, take a zumba class, go for a walk with your dog. just do something to get out and moving!
this was probably the biggest change my mom made. my mom is a very busy stay at home mom. she puts her needs after every one else's. this is amazing and inspirational, but as a mother or any busy human being, you need to take time to take care of yourself. and part of that is exercising. as much as i love exercising, i find it hard to go running or get to the gym 5 days a week (what with school and work) and so this is something i need to work on!
3. Eat a heart-healthy diet- this includes cutting back on fatty foods, red meats and sweets, and increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, good fats, and fiber-rich foods you eat. Eat your Cheerios people! (For more information on a heart healthy diet see here.)
4. Maintain a healthy weight.
5. Get regular health screenings- blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.
My own suggestion: 6. Know your history! If your family has a history of heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, etc. know about it. Know when these things started occurring in the family members so that if you do need to consult a physician about one of these diseases you have all the information that can help him make a good diagnosis.
This is kind of a long post, but having a healthy heart is kinda a big deal. So while you are thinking all those lovey-dovey romantic thoughts and decorating hearts with cute sayings, remember your own heart and decide to make your life more heart healthy!