Day 32 – Happy Heart Health Month

1 02 2010

Turns out February, with all of it’s heart-adorned decorations, is annually declared as American Heart Month by the President. A good thing when, according to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and the greatest health threat to women in the United States. Each year cardiovascular disease accounts for one in three women’s deaths.

My dad survived a heart attack at age 49. His father died of one at age 48. Neither of them were overweight, and they ate a generally healthy diet – especially my dad who has never been a smoker. With my gene pool and gender against me, I am conscious of heart health, and have had special scans as part of diabetes research studies through my endocrinologist. My cholesterol and blood pressure are fantastic…but given my family history I’ve always been concerned about what might change in my 40s. Yet another reason for this daily exercise project! (Did Classical Stretch for core and hips today on my rest day from running…)

Daily exercise is, of course, high on the list for heart health, along with the diet changes that I’m trying to focus on — more fiber, less fat. Here are the top changes I’ve made in the last month:

1) Oatmeal for breakfast (steel-cut, real deal)
2) Agave nectar (to sweeten tea, oatmeal, etc.)
3) Less red meat (try for once per week max)
4) More fruit, less processed carbs for snacks (apples vs. crackers)
5) More skim milk (2-3 glasses a day vs. 0-1)

These changes made my list because I like these foods. I’m not trying to make myself eat raw carrots and rice cakes, because that is a huge struggle for me. But eating more food that you actually like — and trimming some things out — doesn’t seem so bad.

When I was 12 and diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, the doctor and nutritionist made me keep food logs to be sure my daily insulin dose was correct. You had to count “exchanges” for each meal based on portions – long before nutrition labels came along. This made a teenage food log rebel out of me! Adding my insulin pump in my 20s meant I could eat just about anything, as long as I calculated the carbohydrates pretty closely. But no more logs!

Looking at the American Heart Association site, I actually found this fruit and veggie log that I am going to try for a week. I especially love fruit and serve vegetables most days for dinner. (Confession: in tonight’s rush to kids’ basketball and ballet, we had tacos, and I didn’t even have time to add the lettuce or tomato…) But 5 a day? Am I getting that recommended amount? I doubt it… I haven’t tracked it in more than 20 years. So in the name of research experiments and Heart Month I’m going to – at least for this week.

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