The heartbeat of the family

Moms Should Take Time to Take Care of Themselves to Help Prevent Heart Disease

momsAs mothers and wives, we often put ourselves last. But not focusing on ourselves could be a risk factor for heart disease.

“I think, as women, we have a hard time saying no,” said cardiologist Elizabeth Ebert, MD, Scott & White – Temple. “We’re too busy doing stuff for everybody else. But if you are sick, then you can’t take care of anybody else.”

And when you don’t take the time to eat right, exercise and get enough rest, your self-neglect could turn into a life-threatening illness or a debilitating problem.

According to the National Institutes of Health, two-thirds of women who suffer a heart attack never make a full recovery, and according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, one in four women dies of heart disease. That makes heart disease the number one killer of women in the US.

But the good news is that heart disease doesn’t have to be inevitable. There are ways to protect yourself from developing this potentially deadly illness.

Limit Fast Food

“A lot of times we are in a hurry so you grab something quick on the way home that has a lot more fat, calories and sodium in it,” Dr. Ebert said. “So, taking the time to prepare meals at home is important.”

Women should avoid foods with a lot of gravies, choose lean meats like pork tenderloin, chicken or leaner cuts of beef and always accompany meals with fruits and vegetables.

Hydrate

“Many people don’t drink enough water and as a result, they end up eating more,” the doctor said. “By drinking adequate fluids and staying hydrated, you will feel better, have more energy and eat less.”

Keeping up with hydration can also help you have more stamina while exercising, which is another way to prevent heart disease.

Avoid Risk Factors

Smoking, being overweight and having Type 2 diabetes are all big risk factors for developing coronary heart disease, Dr. Ebert said.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is also one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease. And the physician said people often don’t know what their blood pressure numbers are.

“In my clinic, I have a lot of patients that have Type 2 diabetes and can tell me what their blood sugar was that morning, but when I ask them what their blood pressure was, they haven’t checked it since the last time that they went to the doctor,” she said.

Know The Symptoms

Knowing what symptoms to look for is just as important as preventing the illness. The sooner you can spot the symptoms and get treatment, the better your chances are of surviving and preventing disabling effects.

“If you notice predictable discomfort in your chest like a dull ache, that could be a sign of heart disease,” Dr. Ebert said.

Some of the other signs could be a sudden change in your physical stamina, shortness of breath during normal activity and extreme fatigue during everyday tasks.

“If you are having any of these symptoms, then you should talk to your primary care physician who can do some screening and evaluation to see if something is wrong,” the cardiologist said.

And if you already have heart disease, you should make sure all of your risk factors like high cholesterol, diabetes and blood pressure are all well controlled.

“That makes heart disease the number one killer of women in the US.”

“If they are smoking, they should quit smoking, if they are inactive, they should become active, and if they are overweight, they should try and maintain a healthy weight,” she said. “Those things go a long way in keeping heart disease at bay.”

The doctor said it is important for women to be selfish when it comes to their health.

“It’s vital for women to take the time to live a healthy lifestyle and get the exercise they need,” Dr. Ebert said. “Women shouldn’t feel guilt about taking a little time –whether that’s early in the day when the kids are napping or late in the evening when they’ve gone to bed—to exercise and take time for themselves.”

Making a commitment to their health will benefit the whole family in the long run.

What are you doing to focus on your health and reduce your risk of heart disease? Share your ideas below.

About the author

Jessa McClure
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Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.

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The heartbeat of the family