You are a single mom. You take care of the kids. You take care of the home. You have a job. You have an extended family. You have parents that need you. You have a dog and a cat that the kids said they would take care of, but we know how that goes. They don’t even feed the fish. You arrange for the kids to get to all their practices. You make the kids’ dentist and doctor appointments and then take off from work to take them. You help with homework. You cook dinner every night, except when you can afford to order pizza. You do the laundry and the dishes. You even mow the grass.
What don’t you do? You are stressed out and worn out. When was the last time you had a check-up? Who’s taking care of you?
We women are always last on the list to get what we need. We neglect ourselves for everyone else. We are the most neglected species on the planet. Even the dog goes to the vet and is taken care of better than we are. That is not right and it has to stop. Now! If you don’t take care of you, no one else will. Who is going to do all that you do if you get sick? No one. It’s up to you. You have to take care of yourself so you can take care of your kids. You are all they have now. You have to take care of yourself because you deserve it!
Before you hit the back button, hear me out. I know what I am talking about. At the beginning of this year, I almost had a heart attack. I ignored the symptoms for months and was just days or weeks from having a heart attack. Do you know the signs of an impending heart attack in women?
It can be much different than for men. Before you pooh pooh me and say you are not old enough for a heart attack, think again. Most people, including women, over the age of 35 have some level of heart disease and have risk factors for heart disease. Heart disease is the Number One killer of women. While one in 31 women will die of breast cancer this year, one in three American women will die of heart disease. Did that get your attention? If not, read on:
Heart Disease Statistics:
While different people have different levels of risk based on their genetics, most cases of coronary artery disease and heart disease are completely preventable. We are not born with clogged arteries. They develop because of our lifestyle and what we eat. A sedentary lifestyle alone is the number one cause of a heart attack. We have to keep moving! We should also avoid eating “white” foods such as sugar, salt, fat, rice, flour (whole wheat is good), and potatoes.
Any one of the following risk factors can cause a heart attack:
The Most Common Risk Factors of CAD and Heart Disease:
- high blood pressure
- smoking cigarettes
- high cholesterol
The most common heart attack symptom for men and women is chest pressure or heaviness in the chest. Women, however, are more likely to experience the other signs, especially shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, or back or jaw pain. If you experience any of these symptoms and believe you are having or about to have a heart attack, you should immediately call 911. Do not drive yourself to the emergency room!
Symptoms of Heart Attack:
- Sweating, nausea.
- Chest pain, chest pressure, jaw pain, uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. Shoulder and back pain, pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- SOB (shortness of breath), generally with exertion, and with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness, extreme fatigue, and sometimes, a really bad headache.
It is very important to know your numbers:
- Blood pressure: Adult normal is from 90/60 to 140/90, with the average being 120/80.
- BMI (body mass index): Normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9. Obesity is a BMI of 30 or greater.
- Cholesterol: Total cholesterol, based on HDL (good) and LDL (bad) is less than 200.
If you are overweight, are over age 35, have diabetes, have high blood pressure, have high cholesterol, smoke or lead a high-stress, sedentary lifestyle, you are at a great risk of a heart attack: One that can instantly cause your death.
The symptoms I ignored this past winter were extreme fatigue, shortness of breath and mild, on again, off again chest pains. Finally, when it got to be too much to ignore, my doctor sent me for a stress test, which I immediately flunked. He saw that the left side my heart was not functioning properly and immediately scheduled an angioplasty for me that afternoon. The cardiologist inserted a very tiny tube in the artery in my groin and ran dye through it up to my heart. That clearly indicated my LAD artery (left artery descending) was 95% blocked from plaque build-up. Doctors call the LAD the widow maker because if you have a heart attack due to blockage in that particular artery, you will die. The cardiologist inserted two stents to keep that artery open and now I am “fine”.
I am on a few new meds, but I really am OK as long as I take care of myself and do the things I should have done a long time ago to protect my heart and be healthy. I joined the gym and I go for a few minutes after work 3-4 days a week and “step” on the elliptical machine. I try to do a minute or two more each day. I now try to eat better. I am conscious of what I eat, but you know, what is life without a little pizza and ice cream? The summer is the best time to get more fresh fruits and veggies in your diet. Teach your kids to like them now while they are at home.
I can hear you now, “But I can’t afford to join a gym. I don’t have time for exercise.” My life is very stressful, too. You can’t afford not to exercise! Your life is dependent on it. I found a gym in my area that is only $10 a month. Call around and see what you can find. Some even have childcare. If you can’t make that work, start walking. Go to the park and take the kids and the dog with you. Just play. You will all have fun and will get some exercise to boot. You’ll also be amazed at how the stress you are feeling right now just melts away. At the very least, eat better. While you are on the Internet, go to the American Heart Association’s website and read more about women and heart disease.
Since my close call with a heart attack and death I’ve been scared; I won’t lie. I think that is normal. But I won’t let paralyzing fear stop me from leading a better life. I’ve used the fear to empower me to action! I don’t want to be one of those 1 million people who will suffer their first heart attack this year, and I don’t want to be the one woman who will die from a heart attack in the next minute. You don’t either. Please take the time right now to make an appointment with your doctor. You need a physical, a pap smear, and a mammogram (after age 35-40) EVERY YEAR!
Your kids and family are counting on you. Remember: You are worth it!