5 Heart Health Mistakes to Avoid

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in the United States, and yet there are a lot of basic facts about keeping our hearts healthy that many women are in the dark about. In fact, many women regularly make mistakes in day-to-day life that have a negative impact on heart health. Here are a few mistakes you may be making, and some tips for improving:

Smoking
Smoking is bad for a lot of reasons, including your heart health. Smoking greatly increases your risk of heart disease and heart attack, and the risk is even higher for women who smoke and also take hormonal birth control pills. To keep your heart healthy and strong over the long term, smoking is one habit you’re going to want to ditch.

There’s good news here, too—after you stop smoking, your risk of heart disease drops fairly quickly. Even just one year after you stop smoking, your heart disease risk will be reduced in half, and after 15 years your risk of heart disease will be equal to someone who doesn’t smoke.

Misunderstanding the warning signs for a heart attack
Many of us think of chest pain as a defining characteristic of a heart attack. And while this is the most common symptom, it’s not always severe or noticeable, especially among women. Since heart attacks often present differently for women than men, it’s really important to know about some of the most common symptoms. In addition to chest pain (which might actually feel more like a tightness or pressure), here’s what you want to look out for:

  1. Shortness of breath
  2. Discomfort in your abdomen, shoulder, neck, jaw, or upper back
  3. Pain in one or both arms
  4. Nausea/vomiting
  5. Lightheadedness and dizziness
  6. Fatigue
  7. Indigestion
  8. Sweating

It’s important to get medical attention right away if you experience any of these symptoms or believe you’re having a heart attack.

Eating an unhealthy diet
Diet has a huge impact on various aspects of your heart health, and eating too many unhealthy foods can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Fortunately, protecting your heart health doesn’t require an extremely strict diet and can actually be pretty delicious. The American Heart Association recommends eating a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods from every food group, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, low-fat dairy, lean sources of protein, and healthy fats. At the same time, you’ll want to avoid foods that are loaded with salt, added sugars, and trans fats—these don’t do any favors for our heart.

Not maintaining a healthy weight
Your risk of heart disease is lower when you maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, your doctor can help you determine how much weight you need to lose to protect your heart health, and they can also help you come up with a plan for losing this weight and keeping it off. Overall, experts say a slow weight loss is the best route for keeping weight off in the long term.

Additionally, if you suffer from heart disease, maintaining a healthy weight is an important way to control the disease and reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

Not getting enough exercise
People shy away from exercise for a number of reasons—they don’t enjoy it, they get bored of doing the same thing every day, they don’t have any free time, and plenty more. But to maintain a healthy heart, exercise is key. Experts suggest fitting in at least thirty minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every day, at least five times per week, or an hour and fifteen minutes of more vigorous physical activity per week. If your schedule doesn’t allow long exercise sessions, you can break this up into mini ten-minute exercise sessions throughout the day.

One of the best ways to make a habit of exercising is to stick to a routine. Choose a schedule that works for you and try your best to avoid letting obstacles like work and other commitments get in your way. When you put your health first, the rewards keep coming.

If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com. We have offices in Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Casa Grande, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Gilbert, and Chandler.

Healthy Pregnancy Weight for You and Baby

When it comes to pregnancy weight, everyone has a different experience, different fears and different expectations. It’s for these reasons, and many more, that your AOA practitioner will take the time to truly understand your lifestyle, your eating habits, and your expectations for this pregnancy. A healthy weight for your might not have been the same healthy weight as it was for your sister, or your mom, or even your grandma. Let your AOA practitioner design a healthy plan for you and your baby.

 

Dr. Oz on the Just-Right Size Baby

Recently we posted an article on our Facebook Page that got a lot of attention. It was an op-ed that Dr. Oz wrote for Fit Pregnancy magazine, and it dealt with the controversial issue of baby weight vs. the weight of the mother.

 

Dr. Oz said that “your prenatal weight gain helps forecast your baby’s size,” and yet we’ve received many responses from our AOA Facebook Family contradicting this statement. This goes to the complicated proof that everyone’s pregnancy experience is different, and the importance of seeing your AOA practitioner is paramount.

 

Dr. Oz goes on to say that pregnant women should eat only 10 percent more than the number of calories needed to maintain a healthy weight before pregnancy. While your cravings might be out of control during pregnancy, Dr. Oz suggests increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.

 

What is Healthy Pregnancy Weight Gain?

According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to pregnancy weight gain. As your AOA practitioner will discuss with you, overall healthy weight gain depends on a variety of factors, including your weight and body mass index before you were pregnant, any medical conditions you might have, and your lifestyle. Your AOA practitioner will also factor in whether you are carrying twins or multiples.

 

While your friends, family and mom will tell you are that you should gain no more than 35 pounds and no less than 28 pounds during pregnancy. In reality, it’s not necessarily so black and white, and no one knows that better than your AOA physician. Don’t be afraid to ask us questions about weight gain, about cravings, about which foods you should be eating and which foods you should be avoiding.

 

Speaking of Cravings

Cravings are another aspect of pregnancy, and an aspect that you should not be embarrassed about nor should you try to ignore. Many times these cravings can give your AOA physician insight into what your body might need in terms of nutrition and vitamins.

 

There are schools of thought in prenatal medicine that associate cravings with nutritional deficiencies within the body during pregnancy. Some nutritionists and OBGYN’s believe that certain cravings are meaningful; a magnesium deficiency can trigger chocolate cravings, a protein deficiency can trigger red meat cravings, etc.

 

Other OBGYN’s believe that pregnancy cravings and aversions to certain foods, even certain smells, is your body’s way of protecting your baby. It could be the reason why many pregnant women get sick, even emotional, around cigarette smoke.

 

On the other end of the spectrum, many OBGYN’s and nutritionists also believe that there is no basis for pregnancy cravings. Either way, it is important to talk to your AOA physician about these cravings and how to handle them.

 

Maintaining a healthy diet, and a healthy weight, during pregnancy shouldn’t be difficult or stressful. Make an appointment with your AOA physician to discuss what a healthy weight gain is for you, and how to achieve your pregnancy weight gain goals.

 

 

The Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

Exercise during pregnancy will decrease weight gain, may ease the pain of delivery, lower your risk for gestational diabetes, reduce pressure on your lower back (as mentioned in a previous article), and can increase your overall energy levels during those 9 months. We’ve spoken about yoga during pregnancy, and stretching, but how important is exercise, really? Can exercise make pregnancy and labor easier? The answer; yes it can.

Mommy and Baby Benefits to Exercise

Feeling your best during pregnancy can be tough. Besides the aches and pains, there can be mood swings, cravings, and plain feeling down.

  • Endorphins: Exercise has been proven in scientific research to release endorphins; those little protein molecules that can control pain, cravings, reduce stress and make you feel good. Endorphins can be released during meditation, deep breathing, laughter, and exercise.
  • Improved Posture: According to SutterHealth.com, one of the most important contributions to a healthy pregnancy is good posture. Maintaining good posture can reduce pressure on your lower back, reduce pain and decrease fatigue. Mindful exercises that focus on the lower back and abdominal muscles will help train your back to maintain good posture throughout the pregnancy.
  • Gestational Diabetes: According to FitPregnancy.com, exercise can reduce your risk for gestational diabetes by as much as 27 percent. While genetics and age play key roles in whether you are at risk for developing gestational diabetes, you can fight batck with exercise.
  • Stress Relief: Stress can play a major role in your pain tolerance, levels of fatigue, mood, even preterm labor. A high degree of anxiety and stress can affect your baby’s health, as well as your own, contributing to a boost in risk for preterm labor and/or delivering a low-birthweight baby.  Regular exercise reduces stress, plain and simple.
  • Less Weight Gain: With regular exercise, research has shown you are more likely to gain less weight. Studies have shown that women who exercise during pregnancy put on 7 pounds less than those who didn’t exercise during pregnancy.
  • Increased Odds for Vaginal Birth: According to FitPregnancy.com, regular exercisers are 75 percent less likely to need a forceps delivery, 55 percent less likely to have an episiotomy and up to four times less likely to have a Cesarean section.

On top of those wonderful benefits to exercising during pregnancy, your labor might be shorter and less painful; you’ll likely experience less leg swelling, less likely to experience morning sickness, and will reap the benefits of impressed onlookers at the gym. It’s always nice to get some positive feedback when it comes to your appearance during pregnancy, and this added little benefit will help to decrease some of the self-consciousness that we all struggle with.