“If you love your children, one of the best things you can do for them is to take care of their mother.” ~ Unknown
Approximately every minute in the United States, a woman dies from cardiovascular disease. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that having cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), might increase your risk of severe illness from Covid-19. Those statistics alone should be a powerful motivator to put your health on your priority list, Mama!
Moms Wear Many Hats
As a working woman and a mom, I understand that multiple hats women wear daily to keep the family circus in line. It’s easier for moms to find a needle in a haystack than find time that doesn’t involve carpool, family meals, or domestic duties. But, as your dietitian, I want you to know that you don’t need more time to get in better health. Focus on making decisions that support good health most of the time.
American Heart Month
Since 1964 February has been declared as American Heart Month as a reminder to get families, friends, and communities involved in reinforcing the importance of heart health. Don’t let any more time go by without knowing a number that could save your life: Your blood pressure! Who cares what you weigh, as long as your heart is healthy on the inside. Stop worrying about a number that doesn’t define your actual health, and start better understanding the numbers linked to your overall well being. When moms focus on keeping their blood pressure in check they reduce their risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Controlling Your Blood Pressure
How do you control your blood pressure? I’m glad you asked. Getting rid of your husband and kids may reduce your risk of hypertension, but there are less dramatic ways to approach managing your heart’s stress. There are lifestyle factors that are the foundation for good heart health like exercise, and a nutritious diet, such as a DASH diet. DASH – which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – emphasizes eating ample fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and dairy foods while also lowering salt intake. The US News & World Report ranked the DASH Diet as one of the best overall eating plans for good healthy for the 11th year in a row. Research confirms that DASH diet, which includes three servings of low-fat dairy and eight to 10 servings or fruit and vegetables each day, can lower blood pressure as much as some medications.
But please know that regardless of your effort to like kale and exercise, you may still need to be on medication to help treat heart disease, and that’s okay. Two cheers for modern medicine!
The Dash Diet
There is nothing hard about the DASH eating plan except that most of the blood pressure improvements and heart healthy benefits are seen with the increase in fruits and vegetables. Eating more plants may be challenging to many since only about 5 percent of Mississippians meet their recommended intake of fruits and vegetables daily. If you’re not in the habit of eating fruits and vegetables don’t get discouraged. Make small shifts in your food choices, starting with one vegetable serving a day and working your way up to what you’re comfortable with adding.
Getting in enough portions of fruit or vegetables isn’t nearly as daunting as on might imagine. A serving of raw fruit and vegetables equals 1 cup and a 1/2 cup for cooked varieties. If you follow these guidelines and include produce at every meal and snack, it’s easy to hit the heart-protective mark.
Here are a few tips to increase fruits and vegetables throughout the day:
- Add fresh or frozen berries to oatmeal, yogurt, or whole-grain cereal
- Add a cup of fresh spinach to eggs or smoothies
- Use ripened bananas or zucchini to make whole-grain pancakes or muffins
- Keep whole fruits out on your counter of desk for a quick snack
- Replace desserts with fruit and yogurt popsicle or parfait
- Opt for vegetarian style pizzas or fajitas
- Order sandwiches as open-faced salads instead.
- Replace a side of French fries with apple slices or side salad.
Mason Jar Salad
One way to knock out several vegetable servings at once is to fill up on a large Mason jar salad for lunch or dinner. The best part is you can make several at a time and store them in your refrigerator for easy access all week long. Use it as a side dish or as your main meal. First get creative with the ingredients. Start with a wide-mouthed jar, add a heart-healthy olive oil based dressing to the bottom, and then pack in the veggies such as broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes. Layer in a serving of protein-rich cheese or chickpeas; top it off with green leafy lettuce. When you are ready to eat, turn it over and give it a shake. Shake, shake, and partake.
If you haven’t already, make time to get your blood pressure checked. And start eating for a healthy heart today. Your family needs you!
Pear and Spinach Salad
- 1 pear, cored and thickly sliced
- 3 cups spinach leaves, divided
- 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds or dread cranberries
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped pecans
- 2 ounces crumbled blue cheese
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinaigrette
- 1 quart-size large-mouth Mason jar
Pour a small amount of dressing on the bottom. Place the pear slices on top of the dressing. Layer 1 cup of the spinach on top of the pear, and then add the pomegranate seeds and the chopped pecans. Finish with the remaining spinach and the blue cheese. Seal the jar and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes 1 serving.
To read more about how you can get involved with AHA, please visit American Heart Association – Mississippi.
Magnolia Moms is dedicated to working to bring awareness to the importance of heart health. We are able to do so by support from companies like The Winning Smile. Be sure to check out more of our personal stories about cardiovascular disease in our wellness section.