Here’s the bottom line: Eat a basically vegetarian diet, with or without the occasional addition of low-fat meat and low-fat dairy products. Stay away from simple sugars and carbohydrates most of the time, and avoid processed foods. Work up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, and be active throughout your day as much as possible. Fight against society’s bad habits of too much sitting, in your car, at your desk, and in front of the television. Get enough sleep. Manage your stress. Breathe deeply. Cultivate your most supportive relationships. Every one of these lifestyle components makes a difference in your heart. We are all over-stressed, over-burdened, and over-worked. The juggling act isn’t getting any easier as life gets more complex and we are constantly expected to take on more and more and more. Finding time to take care of yourself in all these important ways and cultivating a “glass half-full” attitude are real, legitimate heart savers.
Despite the significant threat heart disease poses to women, somehow, so many of us still seem to think it’s somebody else’s problem. In one survey of women, 99% of women said that they knew heart disease was the number-one killer of women, but when asked what their own risk was, only 13% said it was a personal problem. When doctors on the frontlines taking care of women patients were asked if they use preventive guidelines to help protect their patients’ hearts, only about 30% said that they implemented the Women and Heart Disease Preventive Guidelines, rewritten and updated in 2011. There is a disconnect here, ladies. What threatens us is large and dangerous – and yet, we ignore it, and our doctors may not see it or warn us about what to do.
But you can help yourself. You can take charge of your own risk and your own lifestyle choices. You can be part of a changing statistic. You can make a difference for yourself, and by doing that, you can change the world. Let’s use Rosie’s story as a place to begin rewriting our own stories, every one of us. Know your risk factors, get checked, find out your family history, and practice self-care. Start now. What are you waiting for?
The truth is that Rosie was lucky. What happened to her could have killed her in an instant. Now, she gets a second chance. Let’s make her second chance our first wake up call. You don’t have to have a heart attack. Turn around and go a different way. Let’s all do it together.