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Taking Time for Mama: Getting Heart Healthy with Lifestyle Changes

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When it comes to preventing heart disease, lifestyle changes are some of the most powerful weapons you have at your disposal for combating heart disease.

You may not be able to change heart disease risk factors such as your age, sex, or family history, but you have the power to totally transform your heart health in almost every other aspect of your lifestyle ranging from diet to smoking to maintaining good oral hygiene.

Lifestyle changes that make a big impact on the war on heart disease include smoking cessation, improving what you eat to become a heart-friendly diet, and maintaining a healthy weight, controlling high blood pressure, lowering blood cholesterol levels, treating diabetes, limiting stress, practicing good hygiene -- including oral hygiene -- and ... our favorite ... the dreaded daily exercise!

One great advantage to lifestyle changes is that there are no prescriptions to buy, no pills to take, no weekly trips to the doctor, and most importantly, they are relatively easy and generally inexpensive to implement.

Lifestyle changes sound like a win-win. You eat healthy, get some regular exercise, practice good hygiene and your blood pressure goes down, your waistline gets a bit closer to the one you had in high school, and you smile in the morning because your stress level is down.

Your husband, noticing the new you, wolf-whistles at you as you leave for work which causes you to smile even more. Your blood cholesterol is low and your heart is healthy. Yes, lifestyle changes are most definitely a win-win on all levels.

So, if lifestyle changes are such a win, are we actually making those changes? Unfortunately, it appears that our walk doesn’t match our talk. In a survey conducted by the America Heart Association or AHA, results indicate that people really aren’t out there doing the things that we need to do to get heart healthy.

For example, when it comes to eating the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, the majority -- 80 percent -- reported that meeting this goal was difficult. Exercise fared a little better but 60 percent of people surveyed indicated that they couldn’t meet the 150 minutes of exercise a week. Also, 25 percent of persons reported that they did not practice good oral hygiene.

Overall, the AHA survey indicated that the majority of those surveyed do not practice healthy lifestyle habit in three key areas: exercise, nutrition, and oral care. Only 12 percent of survey participants reported regularly practicing these key lifestyle habits.

If we know what to do, and how good lifestyle changes are for us and our heart health, why aren’t we out there munching on fresh fruits and veggies, walking around the block, and tossing those cigarettes in the trash?

Most of us want to make healthy lifestyle changes. Ninety percent of survey participants indicated that they’d like to lead a healthier lifestyle. The number one culprit reported in the AHA survey was time, or rather the lack thereof. It seems that most of us perceive that we’re simply too busy to take the time to make the lifestyle changes we need to make.

Why is it that women will make the time to go the extra mile at work, play chauffer, coach, and band sponsor, shop for our aging parents, clean the house, wash the dishes, bake cookies for the bake sale, pack lunches, work on the science fair project, and pick up the dry cleaning, catch a three-hour nap between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. and then get up and do it all over again?

We’ll play Wonder Woman and tackle the chaos that is our lives with the same ease that Superman leapt over tall buildings in a single bound. Yet, we won’t take the time to make ourselves a salad for lunch, savor an afternoon snack of fresh strawberries, or take a 10-minute break at work to walk around the building.

If we are honest with ourselves, as women we make the time for the things that are important to us -- family, friends, job, our faith -- but we don’t put our heart health into the mix as a priority. As a result, heart disease remains the number one killer of women in the United States.

Preventing heart disease is easy and doable. You can improve your long-term outlook when it comes to heart disease by making simple lifestyle changes. If we can make time for everyone else, then it’s time we prioritize our own heart health and make a little time in our daily schedule to become heart healthy. You owe a heart-healthy you to your family, to your friends, and most of all -- to yourself.


Survey reports that just over 10 percent of American adults regularly practice healthy habits – lack of time is a culprit. American Heart Association. 05 Mar 2012.

Heart disease in women: Understand symptoms and risk factors. The Mayo Clinic. 12 Jan 2011.

Heart Disease: Risk Factors. The Mayo Clinic. 12 Jun 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease/DS01120/DSECTION=risk-factors

Reviewed March 7, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment2 Comments


Hi Donna.... Thank you so much for taking the time to write and post. That is so kind of you and I appreciate it very much. 

I have a history of heart disease in my family as well and I've been fighting the cholesterol battle since my 20s.  I usually have three fingers pointing at myself as I try really hard but sometimes am guilty and fall off the healthy living bandwagon. Eating healthy (or rather not eating healthy) is my biggest vice and my number one goal to change this year.  Keep my posted on your exercise goals and I'll share my eating goals! :-)

Thank you again for writing.... It means a great deal to me when readers take the time to let me know an article helped them.

Kind regards,


March 26, 2012 - 7:12pm

This post surely helped me because my entire family died from heart disease. Knowing that, I have made changes in my life. I must say I am guilty of not exercising as much as I should. After reading this it has given me the incentive to do more with my lifestyle changes.
I thank you,
Donna Merrill

March 8, 2012 - 10:09pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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