You know those commercials from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada? The ones where the women take such amazing care of their husbands, making sure they are eating right and getting exercise, then end up being the ones to have a stroke or a heart attack? I don’t think one of us ever thinks that is where we are at. As moms, we push ourselves – sometimes way harder than our bodies want us to. We load ourselves up with caffeine to keep going, have a glass of wine or two to ease down after a hard day, finish our kids meals when they only eat two bites.
It’s normal. That’s the way moms roll. But, I found out the hard way late last year that rolling in that manner can jeopardize your ability to care for that precious family, even take you from them.
I tell my personal story not to get sympathy. I know how hard I push myself and I do it out of a relentless sense of need-to-accomplish. I tell it because it’s time for us all to reconsider self-care as non-optional. Part of being there for our families every step of the way is taking the time to make sure we are healthy so we can physically be there to see our children thrive and grow.
For me, it began with a dizzy spell. Then, lots of dizzy spells. Weeks of them. I headed straight to the doctor and she reported back sobering news – my blood pressure was sky high. My heart was in crisis. I needed to change my life and how I was going about everything in it the moment I stepped out the door of her office. She was not gentle. She gave me the “Do this or you may not be around” speech.
I was scared.
She gave me the to-do list. It was long. It meant breaking from work, de-stressing, a total diet rehab, major lifestyle changes. Gasp.
I found myself at the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s website for women - The Heart Truth Canada. I had no idea how much women are at risk for heart disease. It is the leading cause of death for women in Canada. How shocking is that? I learned also that I am a prime candidate. So are many, many of the women in my life.
Take a look around you – your friends, your family. Now, straight from the Heart Truth Canada, take a look at the risks they face:
In Canada, stroke kills 32 per cent more women than men. And women are 16 per cent more likely than men to die after a heart attack.
There are a number of factors that may account for the increase in women’s risks of heart attack and stroke: women are less likely to recognize the symptoms of these diseases and seek treatment quickly; men and women are often treated differently by the health system, with men receiving more prompt and proactive treatment; and women have a number of unique risks, such as pregnancy and menopause.
In fact, most Canadian women have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke. As they age, estrogen levels, which offer them a degree of protection against heart disease and stroke when they are younger, begin to decline.
It is truly the silent killer. Many of us will never even know until something happens, and that something is often deadly.
But enough with the grim and on to the positive.
We all can take a moment and make a difference that could save our own lives by simple things like doing the free risk assessments on the website, looking at our diets, weight and stress to see how we can make changes, and visit the doctor.
It was that visit at the end of 2012 that I believed saved my life, gave me what I hope is many more years with my sweet family to celebrate and love.
Reality check: this sort of thing is hard to face. In your head, much like me, you may be thinking “I can’t handle that right now.” I admit, the changes in our lives because of what I now know are substantial. I’ve had to give up vices, rethink what I do every day, step back from things that really mattered to me and drove me.
But, what I suspect is the greatest gift we can give our kids as moms – us being there, healthy and active and joyful with them – makes that reality check awesome and life affirming.
Take a moment for yourself today and head over to The Heart Truth Canada – no matter what age you are – and see if this silent killer may be in your life. Then, maybe see the doctor, make some shifts.
What does that commercial say? “Make death wait.”
Category: COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT