As a military wife, I spend a lot of time worrying about my husband. I’m concerned for his safety and well-being when he’s at a FOB. I worry about attacks, but also about tragic accidents that take the lives of service members during training exercises.
At home, I worry about my small children. Are they eating a well-balanced diet? Do they need more physical activity during the day? How much is too much screen time?
But when it comes to my health, I don’t worry. My health, including daily exercise and eating leafy greens, tends to get pushed to the back burner. “I’m fine,” I tell myself. I’ll stop eating fast food and find time for yoga someday. Like I said, my mental back burner.
Then I read Angie Ricketts’ memoir “No Man’s War: Irreverent Confessions of an Infantry Wife.” This book opens with Ricketts driving herself to the emergency room because she was suffering an out-of-the-blue heart attack. Ricketts wasn’t a smoker, didn’t have a family history of heart problems and ran regularly.
I put down the book and thought to myself, if this Army wife suffered a heart attack, what’s preventing me from having one?
February is American Heart Month. Cardiovascular disease—including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure—is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. I always thought it was breast cancer. Turns out I was wrong. I was also wrong when I thought that there was nothing I could do to prevent heart disease. Turns out, those healthy habits I’m pushing on my daughters– I should be pushing on myself.
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows that researchers determined that three-quarters of heart attacks in young women could be prevented if women closely followed 6 healthy lifestyle practices. Women who adhered to all 6 healthy lifestyle practices had a 92 percent lower risk of heart attack and a 66 percent lower risk of developing a risk factor for heart disease.
Here are the 6 healthy habits to help prevent heart disease.
- No smoking. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, now is the time to quit. Tobacco-cessation products are covered under Tricare.
- Maintain a normal body mass index. Is your body mass index normal? Or do you need to lose 10 pounds this year? Schedule an appointment with your PCM and ask those questions. Maybe 2015 is the year that you lose the extra weight you’ve been carrying.
- Exercise. The study found that a minimum of 2.5 hours of physical activity per week is the workout that your heart needs to keep beating properly. My PCM recommended that I walk at least 30 minutes daily to reduce stress, anxiety and reduce fatigue. When I do it, I always feel energized. When I don’t, I find myself binge watching on Netflix.
- Watch 7 or fewer hours of television per week. One hour per day. It’s the same restrictations that I apply to my children. It turns out the same applies to me.
- Drink one alcoholic beverage per day. As we know a glass of red wine is good for our hearts. A bottle of red wine, not so much.
- Eat a healthy diet. This month, I’m working to incorporate 1 vegetable and 1 fruit into all 3 meals. This means less time in the snack aisle of the commissary and more time selecting fresh produce. Again, it’s something I do for my children. Now I know that these healthy heart habits that I push on my children, I need to push on myself.