As a special needs mom of two kids who have heart issues, it’s all too easy for me to become consumed with their health concerns. Heart issues don’t disappear after surgery and they aren’t fixed with meds. It’s a hard reality that parents of kids with CHD have to live with.
One lesson that I’ve learned from my experience is that as a mom and caregiver, I can’t neglect my own health in the process. One the things I remember most vividly from my son’s open heart surgery at two months of age was the amount of families in the waiting room who had adult loved ones who were also undergoing come kind of cardiac procedure (adult and pediatric critical care shared the same waiting room at that time.) It’s important for you, as a parent or caregiver, to take the necessary precautions to protect your heart.
This made me realize how common place heart issues were. But I was younger then and it was easy to slip back into bad habits. Then at the end of last year I got a wake up call — my blood pressure was trending higher and my cholesterol numbers were awful. As a special needs mom, I want to be around for my children for as long as I can be.
Here’s some lifestyle changes I’ve recently made to protect my heart and as a result, have already resulted in a 10 point drop in my blood pressure.
Whole Foods Diet
This doesn’t have to be miserable. Use everything in moderation and make it a point to add heart healthy foods to your diet each day so that they naturally begin to replace unhealthy foods. Healthy food choices include foods such as seeds and grains, omega-3 fish, fruits and veggies, beans and grass fed beef. You can even enjoy dark chocolate in moderation. For me, I achieve best results when I eliminate sugar completely and minimize grains.
With so many of us spending increased amounts of time on computer screens, sedentary lifestyles have become the norm. In order to become more active, you’ll probably have to plan for it each day at a time that works best for you. That may be first thing in the morning, after work, or movement breaks spread throughout the day. The important thing is that you get moving.
Stress is the number one enemy of a healthy lifestyle. We all have to live with it, but if we don’t learn how to manage it, it will have an extremely negative impact on your health. Start by reducing it where you can. Time management stresses out many people. If you’re spending your days rushing around to work, after school activities to various appointments, you probably feel like you never have a spare minute. Re-evaluate your schedule. Simplify whenever you can.
Find ways to help you calm down when things feel like they’re out of control. Deep breathing techniques, prayer, meditation and yoga will help you manage stress effectively.
Know what your triggers are. Find a way to manage it better with a new and different reaction to it.
By incorporating these lifestyle changes, you can feel confident that you are doing what you can to protect your own heart health and should start to experience and improvement in your overall health.