On Mother’s Day, it’s time to celebrate Mom with a special meal or a fun family outing. It’s also an opportunity to embrace and encourage everyday healthy choices for all the special women in our lives.
A nutritious diet and physical activity are essential in helping to prevent heart disease and promoting overall good health for today and the future. Focusing on that big picture can be motivating, says Norrina Bai Allen, PhD, associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
“Keep in mind why you are doing it,” Allen explains, noting that a healthy lifestyle helps your well-being in the present and “extends your healthy life.”
Additionally, she says, as mothers strive to stay healthy, they set a positive example for children so they, too, will live healthy lives.
Preventing heart disease can also help keep you and your family financially healthy in the long run. Cardiovascular disease , which represents a number of heart and blood vessel diseases, is the leading killer of women and all Americans. 1 It cost the United States $555 billion in 2016. That cost is projected to soar to $1.1 trillion by 2035.2
Get out and get moving
Mother’s Day is a good time for hiking, walking, and enjoying the blooming flowers. It’s springtime, after all, so try to get outdoors and move.
“Everyone’s getting active — the whole family is doing something together,” Allen says.
Remember, physical activity is important all year long and too much sedentary time can be detrimental to health. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a combination of the two, preferably spread throughout the week. 3
If you have young children, finding time to exercise can seem like a hurdle that’s difficult to overcome, but being physically active doesn’t have to mean arranging for child care or extending your work day, Allen said.
Make it a family event. Getting active with your kids can include bicycling together or brisk walking while they ride bikes. Even dancing and gardening will get you moving.
Physical activity may be easier to embark on than changing your diet all at once, Allen says. But try to incorporate healthy foods into your family’s eating plan with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, skinless chicken, and fish. Limit saturated fats and sodium. .4
Explore heart healthy recipes that are simple, tasty, and affordable, such as turkey chili or spaghetti-squash pasta. Do you love desserts? Consider a healthier option like blackberry cobbler or honey with spiced pears.
Manage stress, get your sleep
New mothers especially need to find time to relax and decompress, Allen says. But women (and men) of all ages need to manage stress and get a satisfactory amount of sleep.
“We’re understanding a lot more about the effects those factors have on heart disease. You should get high quality sleep,” Allen explains. Those who don’t get enough sleep are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. 5
To help get proper rest, create the right sleeping environment without lights and other distractions to avoid sleep interruptions, Allen says.
Stress can pose a health problem, because it can contribute to poor lifestyle decisions that can, in turn, impact heart health, she says.
“We eat things that we shouldn’t be eating. We don’t go to the gym or we don’t exercise,” she says, adding that physical activity is a good way to help combat stress and avoid those unhealthy behaviors. “It lifts your mood and it’s a great stress reliever.”
Know your risk factors
To keep tabs on your health in middle age , know your numbers related to cardiovascular disease risk and take action to control risk factors to set the stage for healthier aging and retirement.
If you have been prescribed medication for heart disease risk factors, take medicine as instructed. Those with fewer health problems later in life have fewer doctor visits and don’t require as much expensive hospital or nursing home care. 6
Even if you’re a busy mother, find time now for regular medical checkups and have your healthcare provider check blood pressure, cholesterol, and other key measurements.
The longer that risk factors, such as high blood pressure, are left unmanaged, the more damage that is done to the body that cannot be undone, Allen explains.
Even those in their 60s and 70s can benefit from making healthy lifestyle changes. “Don’t say, ‘It is what it is,’ “Allen urges. “It’s never too late.”
Adhering to Life’s Simple 7 can have a big impact on health. The seven include managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, reducing blood sugar, getting physically active, eating a healthy diet, losing weight, and quitting smoking.
Regardless of your age, as Mother’s Day arrives, engage in some self-care and take a moment to take stock of your health. Remember that safeguarding your health is a gift for you and your loved ones and makes you a role model.
“We do it for ourselves,” Allen says. “And we want to do it for our families.”
Things to Consider:
- Look for ways to get the whole family involved in physical activity on Mother’s Day and every day, through bicycling, walking, dancing, or gardening.
- Heart healthy recipes can be easy, enjoyable, and affordable.
- Pay special attention to key heart health risk factors as you approach middle age to help ensure health later in life and a happy retirement.
1 “Women and Heart Disease Prevention,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017
2 “Cardiovascular Disease: A Costly Burden For America,” American Heart Association, 2017
3 “Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids,” American Heart Association, 2018
4 “Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations,” American Heart Association, 2018
5 “How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Heart,” National Sleep Foundation, 2019
6 “Life’s Simple 7 Is Key To Ensuring Overall Health In Middle Age,” American Heart Association, 2018
This article was prepared by the American Heart Association (AHA). Transamerica is not affiliated with the AHA and does not control, guarantee, or endorse the information. This information does not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. If you are in the United States and experiencing a medical emergency, call 911, or call for emergency medical help immediately.