It’s February and love is in the air.
Valentine’s Day this year is a Friday, so that’s double-celebration fun (a holiday and the weekend).
If you celebrate Valentine’s Day, enjoy your time with your partner or your friends — and show yourself some love, too.
Show yourself some love every day; you don’t need to wait for a holiday.
This month is also wrapped in red because February is American Heart Month. You’ll probably hear plenty about it through the media and social media.
I admit that the focus on cardiovascular health this month has been in the background for me in the past.
I’ve been to Go Red For Women events before and have educated myself about cardiovascular disease, stroke and the risk factors for those health issues, but I didn’t think I’d ever be telling people that I myself am at risk — at least not at 48 years old.
But I am.
Health c0mes in lots of shapes and sizes, though, so the number on the scale or the BMI index does not offer the full picture of a person and their physical health; there’s a lot more to consider.
Two weeks ago, I got a thorough reading on a body composition scale; those numbers — for my body, not anyone else’s — indicated a strong, athletic body. And that is true.
Yet, I am proof you can look at that data, and still not see everything.
I like to get information about my body — the science of it — my muscles, bones, fat, blood, water — what’s all of that look like according to how I live?
I also made a promise to myself at the end of 2019 that I would go to my primary care doctor and get an overall checkup. I’ve seen specialists like my gynecologist and orthopedist over the years, but that’s it.
I wanted to get things like my cholesterol checked and talk about my bones and osteoporosis.
I stayed true to my word and showed up in the second week of January. Per usual, with any visit I’ve had to a physician, they took my blood pressure.
I was alarmed to hear the medical assistant say it was 150/100.
That’s called Stage 2 Hypertension, y’all.
In keeping with my over-achieving ways, I blazed right through Stage 1 Hypertension, apparently.
The BP chart is from Healthline.com via Pinterest. Click here for the article.
Learning that news wasn’t simply a moment of “I guess I’ll have to work on that.” I was crestfallen. I was doing everything “right,” so how could this happen?
And here’s what was even scarier to me: if I was taking great measures to maintain optimal health, what the hell else could I do if my heart was working too hard in spite of all of that?
After I stayed in my feelings for awhile like I was a rare case (nope – 1 in 3 adults has hypertension), I did what I do best — I became a scientist in my life to give myself information and form a plan.
Here’s what I learned:
- Probably the biggest piece to the “why?” puzzle was found when I called my dad (age 69) that day and found out he’d been taking anti-hypertensive medication since he was around 49 years old, and that’s how old I will be in July. Genetics. Have conversations with your family about these things. I had no idea. I never asked until I needed to know.
- His parents — my grandparents — had hypertension, too; they smoked all day long, and didn’t eat to support good health. My dad doesn’t do that, and I don’t either, but the genetic influence remains.
- For most of the last two years, I have been under the highest levels of stress I’ve ever experienced in my life, for varied reasons — even more than when I was going through infertility over 10 years ago. That kind of stress was more of a long and heavy grief; my recent stress levels were largely fight-or-flight. I felt like that a lot. A least once a day for weeks at a time. This kind of brain stress eventually impacts the way your heart beats and how your blow flows.
- I was also treated for depression and anxiety during that time, which have a connection to high blood pressure. Most of what I’ve read says that stress by itself isn’t necessarily a cause of hypertension, but those frantic stress hormones contribute to the build-up of plaque in your arteries. Some studies show the people who are dealing with depression and anxiety are at higher risk for or have high blood pressure.
- I averaged five to five and a half hours of sleep a night, so my heart was working hard for about 19 hours a day.
- My LDL cholesterol number was little high, but all of my other numbers from the lab tests looked great.
Here’s what’s good, and what’s changing:
- I am taking medicine and monitoring my BP with by doing readings each day. It’s getting better, but my lower (diastolic) number is still high.
- I am more mindful of my eating and the effect it has on all of my organs — not a number on the scale. I thought I was already doing this, but when I was more honest with myself, I saw gaps where I could help my body more without getting obsessive about food or slipping into a diet mentality.
- Sleep. Seven hours a night and counting. Everyone needs to get outta my bedroom — people and cats — by 10:00 p.m., if not earlier.
- Keep moving. Stay fit. I am aces on that.
- Stress. I’ve turned the volume on my stress level way down over the past six months. Without knowing I had high blood pressure last fall, I could feel my exhaustion mounting from worrying, rehearsing disappointments and tragedies and being reactive in situations. I had a lot of headaches — another sign of high blood pressure. Now, I’m being even more intentional about lowering my stress levels — lots of breaks, more sleep, guided meditations (5 minutes, but I’m doing it!), managing my mind, as well as my desire to control things out of my control.
My message to you as a therapist, life coach, fitness professional — as a woman — is to take the time to check in with your heart.
Most of the time, I help people do that on an emotional level, but this time it’s physical — and that is emotional, too.
There was so much gravity to this diagnosis for me: this isn’t cartilage we can shave out of my knee or a benign cyst we can remove from my breast.
This is my heart. I don’t want to break it.
Cardiovascular disease is the number 1 killer of women. Eighty percent of cardiac events are preventable if you are proactive.
I talk to women all of the time about their self-care rituals and plans, but I don’t think I’ve ever offered the suggestion of scheduling a doctor’s appointment to check on all of your parts – particularly your heart – until now.
At the very least, take your blood pressure regularly or have someone do it. Even those (likely) poorly calibrated blood pressure stations at a drug store can tell you something that you can look into further.
I like to say, “your body will always tell you the truth,” and it was hard for me to hear the truth this month, but it may have ultimately saved my life.
If so, I made something for you.
I have a 30 day 1:1 coaching program to help you Level Up and create a unique plan to design an empowered mindset, move your body, and select and solidify habits that work for your life.
Like my quote says, your health is not your side hustle — something that you do here-and-there or piecework.
Your health is the foundation of your life.
If you decide your health is your vocation, then it’s more than a hustle or a job.
A vocation is “especially regarded as particularly worthy and requiring great dedication.”
If you think that sounds beautiful, but feel like it’s out of reach, I can help.
- I do not do diet bullshit.
- I do not tell you “x”-is-the-way-to-work-out-for-results bullshit.
- I do not tell you that if you don’t eat a specific ratio of something one day and move particular body parts on that same day, you’re “doing it wrong.”
What I see over and over again with my clients who have diet hangovers is this:
If it has rules, it’s not sustainable. Or enjoyable.
And so that’s why you quit, and you kick your own ass.
What we will do together with your thoughts, habits, movement, and progression, is going to be as unique in your handprint.
Want to know more?
To Level Up, click here to get the details and sign up today.
On January 10th, my husband and I went to the premiere of Susan Hyatt’s BARE documentary film in Evansville, Indiana.
BARE is Susan’s coaching process for helping women ditch diet culture, treat their bodies with love and respect, and live an expansive life.
I am proud to call Susan my friend, and our connection happened because I hired her to be my life coach in 2011. With Susan’s loving guidance and BARE, I transformed my life in every way.
I am honored that mine is one of the many beautiful stories shared in the film about what it means to truly know who you are, how you want to live, and making that happen every day.
BARE taught me that the person I can trust the most in this whole wide world … is myself.
Shout-out to my favorite clip of myself at around 42:00 minutes : ).
Sincerely, what I expressed at that moment is a big part of why I am who I am, and why I live and work the way that I do.
Watch. Get inspired. Go BARE.
Join me on February 13th for this Today’s Woman magazine event, where I’ll be a guest motivational speaker!
You will meet new people (live and in-person instead of behind your phone or computer screen), and walk away inspired to keep living up to the intentions you set for 2020.
Mid-February tends to be the time our commitment to the changes we were so excited about on January 1st starts to wane. This event is the perfect way to rejuvenate your spirit.
Click here to find out more and get your tickets (the early bird pricing ends on January 13th).
Are we connected online? Let’s do it!
- Facebook (personal) *send me a FRIEND request*
I post something almost every single day on social media that’s inspirational, motivational, educational or just plain “here’s a fun slice of my life.”
Have a great week!