As you may know, February is American Heart Month. Why is this important? Because heart disease kills more men and women than any other cause, including cancer. Even breast cancer.
The thing is, we often overlook risk factors for heart disease and we do things that are not really nice to our hearts. As busy professionals, nurses often do things like eat foods that are not healthy but convenient. We don't always have the time to exercise, and sometimes we feel to exhausted to even think about it. Even though we know better, some of us smoke, or drink more alcohol than we should. And probably almost all of us are living with high stress levels that we are ignoring. I know I am no picture of health. Up until the last few months I ate fast food...a lot. About the only workout I get is when I go up and down the stairs in my house. And Lord knows I have a lot of stress eating away at me. And the thing that makes it even worse is that I have a family history of heart disease.
So what do we do to protect ourselves from this nasty killer of women and men? Eat right by getting at least 9 servings of fruits and veggies a day. Limit your red meat and unhealthy fats, choosing healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week. Quit smoking if you currently are doing so. Limit your alcohol intake to 1 drink per day or less...although red wine does seem to have some protective heart benefits. And this will be the hard one. Learn to de-stress. My doctor is on me all the time about that one. He's even recommended I try something called HeartMath-although I am sure there are similar programs that work just as well. Even a few minutes a day of meditation or guided imagery may help.
Secondly, arm yourself with knowledge of the symptoms of a heart attack, and know when to seek medical attention for any health concerns. Heart attack symptoms are different in women than men, you can check out this website at the American Heart Association to learn more about them.
So this February, don't forget to wear your red scrubs in honor of Heart Awareness month. Although the National Go Red For Women day has passed, that still doesn't mean we can't raise knowledge of the problem. And love your heart-it's the only one you've got!