Healthy Living for Women
By Philip Levin, MD
We all live with a timebomb in our chests. It might be difficult to hear these words, but let’s face it: If a woman’s heart fails, she dies.
The good news is, keeping a busy mom’s body healthy can actually be easy…if she knows what to do. It’s important to consider the benefits she’ll receive from designing a lifestyle that improves her health and, by extension, that of her family members as well.
As a physician practicing here in coastal Mississippi, I’d like to give a few tips for “healthy heart” living.
Because we southerners love our fried foods, we’re more susceptible to heart plaque buildup than are our northern neighbors. It might be difficult to turn down favorite foods, but making deliberate changes in diet will make a remarkable difference in health. Limiting fried foods and red meat to once a week, and avoiding sodas entirely, isn’t that hard. Increase salad, fruit and nut intake. Even a little weight loss makes a big difference in heart health.
When I was a child, we didn’t have the Internet. After school and on weekends, we gathered with our neighbors for outside activities, picnics, hikes, sports games and such. Now, it’s too easy to spend free time communicating on social media, or relaxing in front of a TV show.
Yet, moving just 30 minutes a day, three times a week, makes a huge impact. Go walking in the mall, ride a stationary bike while watching a video, or do some other heart-building, circulation-increasing activity. This bit of movement reduces risk of heart attack and increases rates of survival.
Smokers take 10 years off their lifespans; stopping smoking by age 40 means instead, you only lose one year. Smoking hurts the heart as well as the lungs. It increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and hypertension.
Certain drugs, particularly stimulants such as cocaine and speed, can actually cause a heart attack.
Poorly controlled diabetes — a serious problem in and of itself, and one that affects many women in Mississippi — worsens heart disease, too.
Medical care for our hearts should include blood pressure control and a heart evaluation, including a baseline EKG. If we have risk factors for heart disease or symptoms such as chest pain, our physician might recommend a stress test.
You only have one body, so it’s essential to keep it healthy. Simple lifestyle efforts make a huge difference. Eat well. Exercise regularly. Avoid obesity. Don’t smoke. Be loving to your heart, and it will keep the beat going for a long, long time.
Philip L. Levin, M.D. is a Coast-based physician and writer. He is the author of numerous award-winning stories and poems, many nonfiction articles, and eight published books, including two children’s books.