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BethM's picture

Like too many moms, I’m an expert at putting myself last. It’s not something I’m proud of; it just seems to happen by default.

I try to make sure my kids eat healthy. I get them regular check ups. I make sure they have lots of physical activity. But when it comes to my own health, I don’t do nearly as well. I put off doctor appointments because I’m too busy. I grab what I can to eat as I rush between meetings or sometimes skip lunch altogether. Between the kids’ baseball practices, homework, and other commitments, I never seem to find time to exercise myself. And sometimes, when I’m making bad choices, I find ways to rationalize my decisions. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, but I have a love/ need relationship with caffeine that finds me drinking way more sodas than I should.

But that changes today. I know it sounds morbid, but I’ve always kind of felt like I knew how things would end for me. My family has a history of heart attack and stroke that in some ways almost makes it seem inevitable. My son was born prematurely because my blood pressure skyrocketed into stroke range, and I’ve been waging a battle with my blood pressure ever since. But in the last month, I’ve had a wake up call. A doctor visit to check on my ankle found my blood pressure scarily high and minor chest pains (which I had been ignoring up until now) sent me to the doctor for an EKG. Luckily, it looks like my problems can be treated with meds and there’s no evidence of any long-term damage. 

But while that news calms me, I can’t afford to let it make me complacent. I’m grateful that the meds are there, but I’m going to use this as a jumping off point to make some serious lifestyle changes that start with prioritizing my health.

Right now I know brave moms who are fighting battles with terrible illnesses who would do anything for answers that will give them more days with their kids. Heart disease also takes moms from their kids way too soon. It’s the number one killer of women in our country, but too often we don’t take the time to do the steps that could prevent it.

Several years ago I saw a PSA from the American Heart Association called “Just a Little Heart Attack” that could have been about me. It’s about a busy mom who takes care of everyone but herself and doesn’t even recognize she’s having a heart attack. It’s stuck with me, probably because of a deep fear that it could be me sooner rather than later.

I remember vividly how terrified I was, even as an adult, when I heard my Dad had a heart attack. And how angry I was when I found out he was asking for his cell phone to keep working from his hospital bed. And I remember all of our deep sadness as he delivered the eulogy for his own mother, my grandmother, who we lost too soon to a heart attack. 

This stops with me. As Maya Angelou said so perfectly, “now that I know better, I do better.” I have no excuses. I know my risks, and I know what I need to do to decrease them. 

So this weekend I’ve made a date with my calendar and my grocery list. I’m going to carve out time to exercise, I’m going to do some healthy meal planning to get myself back on track, and I’m going to work on my soda addiction, especially after reading this study on how sodas with high fructose corn syrup are linked to cardiovascular disease. I don’t imagine it’s going to be easy. But it’s time.











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