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Take Care of Your Sweet Heart

Love your heart on Valentine’s Day (and every day after)—take care of it for those who love you.

Take Care of Your Sweet Heart

Women today have so much on their plates. Life keeps us running ragged. With kids, husbands, work, parents, bills, cooking, and cleaning, there's little time to take care of ourselves. Check out the video Elizabeth Banks starred in at  Go Red for Women called A Little Heart Attack. It’s comical but quite frightening, because it could be any one of us.

On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate love, and what a better way to show our love than by keeping our hearts healthy and being around longer for our families.

I never worried about the health of my heart, but now that I’m forty-something, I do feel the need to address the issue and do what I can to keep it healthy. Obviously, as we age, our risk for heart disease goes up and if you didn’t already know this, heart disease is the number one killer of women. It’s not surprising given all the stresses we have in our lives. The good news is there are many things we can do to prevent heart disease.

Risk Assessment

The first thing we can do is asses our risks by learning about our family's history. Do your parents or grandparents have heart disease? Does high blood pressure run in your family? The answers will give you an idea of what your risks are. My mom had high blood pressure and my grandmother had a stroke in her late 50s, as well as many heart scares along the way. My dad’s dad died of a heart attack in his early 60s. So for me, heart disease is a real threat to my overall health, which scares me. I need to take preventive measures, but what can I do?

Heart-healthy Diet

One thing I can do to prevent heart disease is to eat heart-healthy meals.  Dr. Oz recently focused on heart healthy food on his show. Some great powerhouse foods he highlighted included sweet potatoes, Sriracha hot chili sauce, and kidney beans. Here’s a  link to a recipe which incorporates all three into a stir-fry. I never would have thought to combine such things.  

As we all know, choosing a low fat diet is always best. I think deep down we all know what we should be eating and what we should pass on. Potato chips, french fries and foods smothered in butter and cream are not the best choices for our hearts. Avoid red meat; opt for chicken, turkey, or seafood instead. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts should be part of the daily menu to keep our bodies working properly.

Dark chocolate and red wine have been in the news lately as two treats to indulge in for heart health, but only in MODERATION. Eating a whole bag of dark chocolate Hershey Kisses or drinking an entire bottle of red wine isn’t going to help anyone.

There's lots of information out there about vitamins and supplements. Research for yourself, see what makes sense for you or talk to your doctor. I personally find it all very confusing. Should I take flaxseed oil or fish oil or omega reds? I need to talk to a doctor before I take any kind of supplement.

Healthy Choices

I must make healthy choices every day. Obviously, smoking and drinking heavily are two things to avoid. Stop or slow down if possible or get help if you need it. What a great Valentine’s Day gift to your family—a longer lifetime with you. We have to remember our health and well-being impacts those we love. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be able to take care of those who need us the most.

Get Your Heart Pumping

I know I need to exercise more. Exercise is a key component to a heart-healthy lifestyle. Most doctors and experts call for at least 20 minutes of moderate exercise a day. This is the hardest for me, trying to fit the exercise in between all of my tasks. Walking for 10 minutes in the morning and again after dinner is a great way to get those 20 minutes in. For the ambitious, start training for a 5K or a marathon like the  we read about last week. You go, girl!

Stress Management

Stress infects all of our lives if we let it. Finding ways to manage that stress is integral to staying healthy. I can kill two birds with one stone through exercise.  It is a great stress reducer. Stretching and yoga melt stress and are said to have benefits for our hearts as well. Some other ways to reduce stress include reading, meditating, listening to music or enjoying a fun hobby or pastime. Find your chi and watch your stress fly away.

Finding Time

It seems to me the biggest obstacle to health for moms like me is finding the time.

We actually need to be a little selfish in order to take care of everyone else. Our needs must be met and our bodies need to refuel and relax before we can meet the needs of those we take care of.

Get up earlier or get more sleep if that’s what you need. Go to the gym or go for a walk or run. Make heart-healthy meals for the whole family; everyone needs to eat better. Ask for help or time if you need it.

Ultimately, taking that time to take care of you is the best Valentine’s Day gift you can give to your family and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

It’s American Heart Month. For additional detailed information about heart health, visit the  American Heart Association.

About this column: Janet, a Cinnaminson resident who's married with twin girls, is all around town and writing about it.

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