Hey girl, what’s your New Year’s resolution? I’m sure you’ll hear that line over and over again as the new year kicks off. Common resolutions are related to relationships, eating healthier, exercise, spiritual and career goals and more. Unfortunately, many of these resolutions are short lived for some. This year, I’d like to encourage you to develop more than just a resolution, but a lifestyle habit. More specifically, I want to encourage you to “Love Your Heart” by adopting a lifestyle that will foster a healthy heart. Of course you’re #YoungAndSnatched right now, but your current actions determine your health outcomes when you grow wiser. Since February is American Heart Month, lets discuss heart health.
Let’s begin with a few facts. Heart disease is the number 1 killer of women, which causes 1 out of 3 deaths per year. Signs for heart attack are different for women than men. Signs to look for are as follows; pain in the chest, stomach, arm, jaw, neck, shoulder or back shortness of breath, sweating, unusual fatigue, nausea and vomiting.
How does the heart and blood vessels work?
Together, the heart and the vessels make up the cardiovascular system. Cardio = heart and vascular = vessels. Your heart is the muscle that is responsible for pumping blood throughout your body by way of the blood vessels. The blood carries all the nutrients and oxygen to your organs like your liver, brain, intestines, ovaries, uterus, bones and skin, which allows them to function properly. As you can imagine, your arteries need a free flowing space for the blood to easily flow, like picture number 1 in the figure.
In the event that your vessels are blocked with plaques- cholesterol/fat (picture 2 in the figure)- the space becomes smaller causing decreased blood flow to organs. Decreased blood flow causes damage or death to tissues. For example, when your heart is unable to pump blood to the brain, it causes a stroke. Likewise, when the heart is unable to pump blood to itself, it causes a heart attack.
Finally, let’s discuss how you can Love Your Heart!
Exercise: Knowing that your heart is a muscle, giving your heart exercise is just as important as giving your leg or arm muscles exercise. Thirty minutes of exercise daily is best. Activities that raise your heart rate like jogging, dancing, speed walking and playing sports like basketball, volleyball, tennis will all do great. I know, I know! It’s difficult to exercise daily. It’s okay to exercise a few times per week for longer periods of time.
Nutrition: Fatty foods create the plaques we saw in the figure. Those plaques grow over years of eating foods high in fat and cholesterol, starting in school age children. As you can imagine, it’s necessary to watch what you eat now to prevent heart disease later in life. When you’re shopping for your foods, read to food labels and compare the fat and cholesterol content. Make it a habit to pick up foods that advertise that they are low fat to help you better love on your heart. For a more balanced diet plan, take a look at the plate method that I discussed in the November/December 2015 issue.
Well, that’s all for now ladies… Let’s make “loving our hearts” a lifestyle habit, rather than a new year’s resolution. Happy New Year to you and yours~ Dr. Jay