Disclaimer :: This article is not from a medical professional. Consult your doctor for specific heart health recommendations.
Whether we’re following, blessing, crossing, changing, or pouring out, there’s no shortage of heart idioms. We love to talk about our heart’s figurative expressions and hold these phrases to great expectations. But ladies, today we need to have a heart-to-heart to address some difficult heart issues and learn how to better love our physical hearts.
Our Killer Mama Heart . . . Literally
“Be still my heart” is a phrase we often use when our hearts are overflowing with positive emotion. As women, we tend to feel deeply for those we love most in our lives. As moms, we tend to do things we never thought we would, like all those funny faces and gestures to get a smile in a picture. We tend to put others’ needs above our own, did it all in the name of love.
But my heart skipped a beat when I learned that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths. It’s no secret our bodies take on new stressors during pregnancy, which is why it is vitally important we are aware of our heart’s health and potential risk factors. When we, or our friends, discover we’re caring for two hearts, let’s start caving less into the craving and showering the mommy to be just as much as the baby.
Though it’s not just new moms we need to be concerned about. A study showed that 88% of millennial women worry about their mom’s health. Our kids, no matter how old, care about our health as much as we can care for theirs. Let’s have our heart’s best intentions at heart.
Our Broken Hearts . . . in All Ages
Much like the rhythms of our heart, in our life we can experience great peaks and low valleys. In those darker days, we can feel our heart breaking under the pressures weighing us down. When I read about the variation between men and women when it comes to recognizing heart attack symptoms and receiving treatment, my heart broke for us as women.
- Women having heart attacks will wait more than 30 percent longer than men, from the moment they begin experiencing symptoms to the time they arrive at a hospital.
- Bystanders are less likely to perform CPR on women than men.
But it was this next finding that caused my heart to skip a beat:
- Women between the ages of 18 and 44 are at greater risk for having a stroke.
- Increased risk may come from the use of birth control pills, conditions such as migraines and auto-immune disorders.
May we recognize and empathize when any woman in our tribe, no matter age, race or size, is on the edge, we do our best to bring her back into the light of this life.
Our Heart’s Cry for Help
Getting to the heart of the matter, we need to start prioritizing our heart health by becoming educated ladies of action. There are some risk factors you simply cannot control, such as age, heredity, race, gender, and previous cardiovascular events. However, nearly 80% of cardiac events can be prevented by managing your lifestyle choices.
Every year, as part of my annual physical exam, my doctor orders bloodwork. The results show the impact of my daily choices and whether I am serving my body well or putting it at an unnecessary, increased risk. Things checked in my bloodwork include:
Blood pressure: Each time my blood pressure is taken, I unapologetically ask for the reading because I know my baseline numbers. Your blood pressure is an indicator on how efficient your heart is working. Hypertension, or having high blood pressure, means your heart is working harder, which can lead to scars and damage. Ideal blood pressure numbers for most adults are 120/80 mm Hg.
- Among females age 20 and older in 2013 to 2016, the following had high blood pressure: 41.3 percent of Non-Hispanic (NH) whites, 56.0 percent of NH blacks, 40.8 percent of Hispanics, and 36.4 percent of NH Asians.
Cholesterol: Our bodies need cholesterol to survive, which is why it can produce cholesterol on its own. So when we consume a lot of our not-so-good-for-us favorite foods, remember the long lasting impacts outweigh the few minutes of indulgence. To fully understand cholesterol, you need to understand your numbers on each type of cholesterol. Your total cholesterol is calculated by adding the good, the bad, and 20 percent of your triglyceride levels.
- Cholesterol levels in females ages 20 and older in 2013 to 2016: 40.4 percent had total cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dL or higher, 12.4 percent had total cholesterol levels or 240 mg/dL or higher.
Physical inactivity: I get it, it can be so easy to make excuses for not getting your daily exercise in (hello, newest binge-worthy series). But take this to heart: The more you sit, the more you are increasing your risk for health complications. In 2018, only 20.1 percent of females met the guidelines for aerobic and strengthening activity levels. We don’t have to overcomplicate the process either — all we need is at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise. We can do this, ladies. Put on your favorite color-coordinating outfit, or throw on your most comfy sweats and let’s get moving.
Our Whole Heart . . . We Feel You Beating
This next fact is not for the faint of heart, but it’s something we need to address.
How many women have died since you’ve been reading this article? Too many. Which is why I’m asking, pleading with all my heart, that you follow these steps to boost your heart’s health.
- G: Get your own numbers — know your baseline for blood pressure and cholesterol.
- O: Own your lifestyle — stop making excuses and show up for yourself.
- R: Realize your risk — your heart does so much for you, do something good for it.
- E: Educate your family — share what you have learned with your loved ones and help them in their journey.
- D: Don’t be silent — become an advocate for heart health. Share this article to help increase awareness.
Place your hand over your heart. Do you feel that? Your heart is beating just for you. So be kind to your heart and have a kind heart towards supporting the heart health movement.
Be safe. Be kind. Be you.