February is American Heart Month which is the time to focus on heart health. The Birth Center aspires to raise awareness and encourage action, which includes, knowing your numbers, family history, heart health during pregnancy and making healthy behavior and lifestyle changes.
Start by Knowing Your Numbers
You can’t manage what you don’t measure, which is why knowing your risk is critical to preventing cardiovascular disease. And knowing your risk starts with knowing your numbers. Just because you are in your 20’s or 30’s doesn’t mean that you are home free. Talk to your healthcare provider to learn about your blood pressure, total cholesterol, blood sugar and BMI (Body Mass Index).
If you haven’t had your annual Well Woman visit, make your appointment today (302-658-2229) and have your blood work done (no excuse, LabCorp is right down the hall). Then discuss with one of our midwives whether you should seek further care.
Heart Health During Pregnancy
How can you preserve your heart health when you are expecting? Hint: it starts before pregnancy.
The healthier you are before you become pregnant, the higher the likelihood of a smooth, healthy pregnancy. It’s important to hydrate with water and avoid unhealthy options like sugar-filled beverages, artificial sweeteners and caffeine. It’s important to maintain some level of activity either by walking or taking our prenatal yoga class. This can help keep your heart strong. Discuss your options at your prenatal visits and continue after you have your baby.
Diet and exercise still remain the most important factors in taking control of your heart health. Most women need to increase their calorie intake during pregnancy, but ideally this should be done in a nutritious way. As we age we also have to adjust our calorie intake, but we should never scrimp on the foods that are healthy for us.
A healthy diet full of heart-smart foods is essential to a healthy heart and lifestyle. Fish like Salmon, nuts, berries, foods high in fiber like oats beans are just a few of the heart “superfoods” that may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Dark chocolate is also on the list and is a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth. Studies show that eating a Mediterranean diet, (which really isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle) show that people who eat this way tend to live long, healthy lives. Try moving towards a more plant based diet by starting with one or two days a week. It’s not all about the salad. Here is a delicious and very filling plant based soup that can be served with a nice crusty bread. https://www.themediterraneandish.com/red-lentil-soup-recipe/
In general, women should avoid foods high in sugar and fat because it can have negative short and long-term effects. Limit salty foods, which can increase blood pressure, and caffeine, which can trigger irregular heartbeats.
Exercising during pregnancy can be very beneficial, according to research from the American Pregnancy Association. It can lower blood pressure and in some cases improve sleep, increase energy and lessen pregnancy-related problems. Low-impact, moderate-intensity activities like walking, swimming and yoga are the best options.
Menopause, Peri and Post:
Studies have shown that the hormonal changes that occur during menopause can bring increased cardiovascular risk in the form of higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels. To circumvent these risks, start with walking, biking, swimming or water aerobics. If you’re a beginner, start with 10 minutes a day and gradually increase the intensity and duration. Strength training. Regular strength training can help you reduce body fat, strengthen your muscles and burn calories more efficiently.
Whether you are in your 20’s, 30’s or 40’s, it’s a good idea to discuss your exercise program with one of our health care providers.
Keep this in Mind
Mental health is also a part of your heart health; mental health includes your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how you think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress and relate to others.
Strategies for keeping mentally and physically fit are diet, food and mood, don’t get hangry, meditation, taking a mental health day and learning how important it is to simply take a deep breath and relax.
In most cases, heart disease is preventable when we adopt a healthy lifestyle, which includes not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood sugar and cholesterol, treating high blood pressure, getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week and getting regular checkups.
Well Women check ups should be done annually, not only when you are due for a PAP. If you are overdue don’t hesitate to call, we are doing everything at The Birth Center to keep you safe and we want to make sure we are keeping you healthy.