Even though National Wear Red Day was February 6th, February is American Heart Health Month. We hear a lot about the risks for men, but 1 and 3 women die of heart disease and stroke each year, according to the American Heart Association. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. And since we typically put everyone else’s needs before our own, we have to make doubly sure that we’re taking care of our hearts. I have a family history of high cholesterol so exercising regularly and eating healthy foods is vital (not just so I can fit into my skinny jeans!). I want to keep myself as healthy as possible to avoid medication as I get older.

A decade of inspiring women to protect their hearts. #infographic #heart_disease #women via American Heart Association

On the days that I want to hit snooze and go back to bed, my family health history is what motivates me to get my bum out of bed and moving. Sure, I want to look and feel good, but I also want to do all that I can to keep myself fit for my family. My grandmother lived an active lifestyle, exercising daily and eating/cooking healthy foods and lived until she was 94 years old. She would always tell me “You only have one body, so take care of it.” Her words have resonated with me for years and something that I plan to teach Keenan and Mirella.

This is about me and my health.  I do not need to be competing with Suzy Q.  I do not need to run a full marathon to prove that I'm a runner.  I don't need a sticker on the back of my car stating each distance I've ran.  I run for me.  At my pace, on my schedule, to clear my brain, to make my heart healthy.

Keenan has already asked what “healthy” means and why we don’t eat certain crackers, cookies or candy that some of his fellow peers at preschool eat. We have many discussions of “what is good for our bodies” and what keeps us healthy so he and his sister can become big and strong. Just yesterday, he told me that candy was not good for him, it is only a “very special treat” that he can’t eat all the time. It was music to my ears and proof that all of our discussions are starting to sink in!

Aside from eating healthy and exercising at least 30 minutes daily, there are a few other factors that can help prevent heart disease. Some of those factors include:

Reducing and/or managing stress. I tell this to my mom all the time, as she has a hard time letting go. As moms, we take care of everyone else, manage the household, shuttle the kids to and from and maybe work outside of the home, which is stressful. For me, my workouts are a source of managing my stress. There is nothing like a good wod to help reduce my stress level! Everyone needs to find what works for them in reducing their stress levels, even if it’s a nice bubble bath with a glass of red wine in hand!

Watch the salt! A high sodium diet can increase blood pressure, thus increasing the risk for stroke. At a recent talk that I gave to my mom’s friends, they were very surprised to learn how much sodium is in various foods. Of course, any food that comes in a box or package has a ton of sodium, but also when eating out at restaurants, cooking with canned goods, sauces or even your favorite coffee beverages. I cook with such little salt these days that when I go out to eat I can immediately taste the amount of sodium!

Fat is Okay! It seems that the debate about what fat is good for you has been going on for years. The 90’s was all about non-fat and fat-free foods, and now whole fat is back. Research has found that eating a little bit of healthy saturated fats are actually beneficial for our health. I aim to eat some healthy fats with each meal, such as adding avocado to my salad, snacking on a few roasted walnuts or almonds, adding a dollop of almond butter to my morning bowl of oats and cooking with olive oil and coconut oil.

Red, red wine! I definitely enjoy my nightly glass of wine (or two!) and a little dark chocolate on occasion, and I love that eating those two foods helps reduce my risk for heart disease. Red wine in moderation can help improve HDL (good cholesterol) and dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure. Both are full of antioxidants and dark chocolate contains resveratrol, which also helps to reduce blood sugar.


What motivates you to stay healthy and be fit?

Do you have a family history of heart disease or know anyone who has suffered from it?