By Billie-Jean Martin, MD, PhD; Cardiac Surgeon and assistant clinical professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Stanford University
“Go Red for Women” is a campaign started by the American Heart Association to raise awareness of the toll that heart disease takes on women. Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women? It is important for women to recognize the signs and symptoms of heart disease – and, even more important, to take steps to prevent getting heart disease in the first place. Every February, the American Heart Association aims to bring attention to this issue with awareness campaigns and events such as National Wear Red Day, held each year on the first Friday in February. Take the opportunity to kick start your own healthy choices this year.
What can you do to help your heart? LOTS! Always keep in mind that what you do every day is more important than what you do once in a while – healthy living should be a daily habit, and it doesn’t need to be complicated.
Move at least half an hour a day. This is the best thing you can do for yourself. It can be as simple as walking your children to school, or something more intense like taking spin classes or running.
Meal planning and making healthy meals at home and bringing lunches to work, rather than making poor last-minute food choices, will have a noticeable impact in a short amount of time. By having healthy foods at home, you make it easy to do the right thing when it comes to food.
Know your numbers. Your total cholesterol, blood pressure, fasting glucose, and body mass index are good metrics for measuring your health and progress – check in with your primary care provider on a regular basis.
Make it a “team” effort. Engage your family and friends in making choices – find accountability partners, share recipes, and get moving together.
Butt out. Not only is smoking bad for your lungs, it also wreaks havoc on your heart and blood vessels. Ask for help from your health care providers. There are lots of tools to help you kick the habit.
Become an example for those around you, whether it be children, life partners, or even work colleagues, healthy living is contagious!