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Sunday, February 12, 2012


So how bad is it when it comes to women and their hearts?  Here are the statistics: 

-According to the American Heart Association, "heart disease is the number one killer of women in America." 

-What is even more interesting is the mortality rate of women to men, "Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease and the gap between men and women's survival continues to widen." 

-More than 42 million women in the United States are living with some form of cardiovascular disease. 

-Women are less likely than men to receive appropriate treatment after a heart attack.
-Also, women make up only 27% of participants in all heart-related research studies.  So treatment protocols are largely experimented with on men and then applied to women, even though it cannot and should not be assumed that what works with men will also work with women. 

So what are the physical indications of heart problems in women?

According to the American Heart Association,
"Heart disease - also called cardiovascular disease - is a simple term used to describe several problems related to plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries, or atherosclerosis.  As the plaque builds up, the arteries narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow and creating a risk for heart attack or stroke."

So what can we do to reduce this plaque and reduce our chances of heart attack? 

The Mayo Clinic recommends five medication-free strategies to help prevent heart disease which  are as follows: 

1.  Don't smoke or use tobacco

Smoking can damage your heart and blood vessels leading to the narrowing of the arteries going to your heart (atherosclerosis).  Also, the nicotine in cigarette smoke makes your heart work harder by narrowing your blood vessels and increasing your heart rate and blood pressure.  Carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen in your blood.  This leads to higher blood pressure because then your heart has to work harder to supply enough oxygen.

2.  Exercise for 30 minutes each day

Physical activity can reduce your weight and reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes--conditions which can adversely affect your heart.  And getting exercise doesn't have to be expensive.  Just park your car at a long distance from court so you have to walk to get there!  Walk up and down the staircase in the judicial building!

3.  Eat a heart-healthy diet

This means food that is low in cholesterol and salt.  Eat fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.  Beans and fish such as salmon and mackerel are also good for you.  Avoid processed foods, or pretty much anything purchased in a box.  Have one glass of wine or grape juice a day, and also have a single baby aspirin per day.

4.  Maintain a healthy weight

If it is really hard for you to get out of bed in the morning, if you wheeze and huff when you get up out of a low chair, and if your knees hurt when you have to lift yourself up, you definitely need to lose some of those extra pounds!

5.  Get regular health screenings

Regular blood pressure screenings, blood tests for cholesterol levels, and screenings for diabetes make sense. 

Oh, and always carry a bottle of water with you so you don't get dehydrated! 

Developing a Spiritual Center:  Reducing stress is also vital to heart health, but that is tough to say to protective mothers such as ourselves who face stress every single moment of our lives.  To reduce the effect of stress on our bodies, and most particularly our hearts, we need to learn how to center ourselves spiritually so that we can withstand the wear and tear of ongoing and daily confrontations with the judicial system.  This means developing a relationship with a higher power, adhering to systems of stress reduction such as biofeedback, yoga, or meditation, or whatever helps to nurture our spiritual wellbeing.  Each of us has to find a method that makes sense to us.

There is a book out there with a title that states "Fat is a Feminist Issue".  That's true.  but also, "Heart Health is a Feminist Issue".  Moms, always remember, you are important, not only to yourselves, but also to your children.  Your children are OK as long as you are OK. 

So don't think that everyone else's health comes before your health. Your health comes first.  When you take a flight on an airplane, the stewardess always reminds you that unless you give yourself oxygen first, you may lose consciousness before you can give oxygen to your children.  Likewise, if you don't save your hearts first, you may not live to be able to save your children's.  So start with your hearts first.

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