There is a classic TV PSA by the American Heart Association where actress Elizabeth Banks portrays a mother having a heart attack. As she ignores her symptoms, she makes lunch for the kids, discusses schedules with her husband, and ultimately cleans the house while waiting for an ambulance.
The PSA resonated with just about everyone because it hit close to home. Women tend to neglect their health for the sake of family, friends, social groups, and even to have a clean house for the EMTs.
Doing so can have dire, even deadly, consequences. Here are 9 heart health mistakes you must avoid if you are a woman over 30.
Ignoring Health Needs and Symptoms
Life pulls everyone in different directions, particularly if you are a typical woman. Work, play, and family all have different needs, and most women feel the need to meet them all, even if it means ignoring their health. That PSA resonated because the mindset of “must clean before the EMTs get here” is one many women have, even if it means jeopardizing their health.
If you have any symptoms of a possible heart attack, including abnormal heart rhythms and high blood pressure, have it checked out as soon as possible.
Not Prioritizing Their Health
Failing to prioritize their health aligns with the above point but is more of a “30,000-foot view.” Many women ignore obvious illness symptoms and tend to put everyone else’s health and well-being before their own. A healthy woman starts with a healthy lifestyle. That means eating right, getting enough exercise and sleep, and de-stressing whenever possible.
Too often, though, women prioritize caring for others when they should focus on caring for themselves. After all, your kids are not that concerned with their lunch but will miss you if you pass, and no EMT will notice how clean the kitchen is as they try and save your life from a heart attack.
Not Sleeping Enough
Almost no one gets enough sleep, but women in general and moms in particular, do not. There are many reasons for this, including but not limited to:
- Keeping up the house
- Lack of exercise
- Caffeine after Noon
- Other health issues like menopause
- Excessive worrying
Lack of sleep contributes to high blood pressure and has been linked to occurrences of heart disease. The minimum amount of sleep a woman needs is six hours. There are many things a woman can do to improve their sleep, and doing so should be a priority.
Assuming Heart Problems Will Have Symptoms
High cholesterol has no symptoms. High blood pressure has some symptoms, but you must be in tune with your body to recognize them. A heart attack from either situation can have barely noticeable symptoms. Often women do not always get a “red flag” to alert them that something is wrong.
The only way to avoid becoming a victim of a symptomless health issue is to get regular checkups and testing. Women can get their cholesterol checked regularly. They can monitor their blood pressure and heart rhythms at home. Assuming they will get a warning symptom or that they will recognize it when it comes is a big mistake.
Assuming Pregnancy Ended All Health Risks
Women can develop several health issues during pregnancy, including abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes. Most women assume that once their body returns to normal, they are as healthy as before they were pregnant. In reality, some women with either condition can develop heart problems because of both later in life.
The key to addressing the risk here is always to ensure that the primary care doctor knows of all health issues, even those that seem to have passed.
Lack of Exercise
Women work hard being moms, at work, carting the kids around, maintaining a clean living space, etc. All that is enough exercise for the average person. Right?
Doing household and mom stuff is certainly exercise, but rarely enough. Driving the kids around is taxing and time-consuming, but how much exercise is a person getting driving? The answer is not much, even though the person driving is very busy. Adopting a routine of extra exercise is vital to maintaining heart health.
One of the most effective exercises a busy woman can do is walking. If taking a walk is not an option, investing in a used treadmill can be a very effective substitute. Another form of exercise that is very beneficial is taking 15 minutes and doing stretches or even yoga.
Getting food ready for kids or a busy household puts a lot of women in front of a lot of food throughout the day. However, much of it in the average household, while not junk food, is not as nutritious as a woman’s body needs. There are several ways to get on the right track:
- Plan meals a week in advance to avoid buying impulse-buy junk food when shopping
- Restrict sugar intake to one serving per day, including in any beverages
- Replace any junkier foods with fruits and vegetables for snacks
- If no one has allergies, add nuts as a snacking option
- Reduce red meat intake
These are just a few suggestions that can have a big, positive impact on diet, and help you maintain healthy heart rhythms. Plus, if adopted household-wide, it can help everyone get healthier.
Stress negatively affects everyone’s health. For most average women, stress is part of their daily routine. Any stress reduction action or method can help improve heart health in women. Even something as simple as enjoying herbal tea in the afternoon for 20 minutes can significantly affect the level of stress a woman feels the rest of the time.
Neglecting Doctor Visits
It is easy when there are kids to care for, work needs, and a spouse to neglect to get regular physical checkups and screenings. Making them a priority more than helps with heart health. It also can help a woman detect and address other health needs.
An average woman puts in a lot of time, love, and effort taking care of everyone else while neglecting their health. Not considering their heart health can have devastating health consequences down the road. Following the advice above can go a long way in improving heart health, and most tips are so easy incorporating them can be done seamlessly.