Whether you work a lot or manage a house full of kids, as a busy mom you know you don’t always have time or energy to take care of your health. But it’s essential that you educate yourself on ways you can fit healthy habits into your life. With a combination of awareness and a little change in your daily routine, you can achieve better health tomorrow than what you have today. In particular, you need to concentrate on your heart health. Heart disease is the number one killer of women (and men), but it doesn’t have to be. The following five tips represent small changes you can make that will add up to a huge difference in the way you feel and the energy you have so that you can be there for your kids for many years to come.
Kick Bad Habits
Let’s face it; all moms have one or two vices that they indulge in that are not so good for their heart’s health. This could be in the form of smoking a cigarette or two during downtime, drinking a beer or two after the baby goes to sleep, or eating junk food with the kids during playtime, for example. Moms know that such indulgences are not healthy, but they push aside this fact due to stress, inconvenience, or procrastination. It’s hard to make that “healthy” change to kick bad habits, but don’t be discouraged. There are simple but essential things that you can do to turn these bad habits into something just as pleasurable without the unhealthy side effects.
Kick the smoking — Nothing… not stress, not ornery kids, not the pleasure of a puff… is worth an early death due to smoking-induced heart failure. Think of your children and how blessed you are to be with them every time you think about lighting up. To kick the habit easier, chew gum, eat carrots, gnaw on a toothpick, hold a stress ball, or find something that keeps your hands busy and your mouth away from the temptation of smoking.
Limit alcohol — You know that alcohol is bad for more than just your heart. Alcohol not only increases blood pressure and risk of heart failure, and it also makes you fat. Instead of that beer or that shot, try the alcohol-free version of those beverages, or you could sip on juice as a refreshing substitute.
Stop the junk food — Go to the market and stock up on your favorite fruits and vegetables. Buy fat-free dips or heart-healthy spreads to compliment the flavor. You (and your kids) will benefit as the fresh nutrients reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure in a matter of days. Think about how much less fat and empty calories you will be saving from going into your arteries as an inspiration for trading the chip for the cherry!
Moms handle it all, from a screaming and crying child, to household expenses, to the go-go-go of a busy schedule (including your work schedule too)! All that stress adds up over time in the form of increased heart rate, boiling high blood pressure, muscle tension, suppressed anger, and other physiological symptoms.
One of the best things you can do for your heart is to learn techniques that calm you down during your daily struggles. Of course, there are many recommended exercise and relaxation techniques that you should adopt, but for the in-between times when you arrive at your wit’s end, you can take two or three minutes to do the following calm-down routine:
- Go somewhere quiet and alone, like the restroom, for a few minutes.
- Clench your fists as tight as you can and take a deep breath. Hold it for 10 seconds.
- For the first 6 seconds, “growl” out frustration in your mind.
- For the last 4 seconds, tell yourself that your physical stress and anger is not worth the damage it causes to body or spirit.
- On 10, slowly release your breath and release the built-up stress and muscle tension with it.
- Look in a mirror and reflect on your calm self and promise yourself you will remain calm as you go forward. When you walk away, you will feel much better and so will your heart.
Cut the Fat
Besides quitting your junk food habit, you need to cut out most fatty foods at meal times. Essentially, red meat and starches are bad for your heart because they clog your arteries. Other fatty foods to keep away from during the day include fried food, fast food, desserts, and too much dairy.
To keep your heart healthy, eat a “complete” breakfast. This includes natural fruit juice or fresh fruit, low-fat milk or single dairy product, cereal or other fiber-rich bread items, and a wholesome protein, like peanuts. Not only will you feel more energized for the day, you will also eat less lately, burn off extra calories during the day, and get a variety of nutrients. Healthy snacks during the day should include foods that are grown on trees or from plants.
Remember, it all begins at the market when you are buying your groceries. Make a list of heart-healthy foods and stick to it!
Regular exercise, even if it is just taking daily walks with your kids around the neighborhood, will give your heart a health boost. Some ways that you can fit exercise into your busy schedule without lugging your kids to the gym include:
- Doing simple aerobic exercises for 15 minutes right after you wake up, like jumping jack’s and running in place.
- At work, get up from your desk and move around every hour for about 5 minutes.
- Jog around your block for 15 minutes when you get home from work but before you settle in for the night.
- Do stretches and muscle training on your bedroom floor before bed, such as 10 push-ups, 30 stomach crunches, 15 squats, etc., for about 15 minutes.
- Adding these quick extra activities will give you about an hour and a half of exercise you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Making substitutions means that you will trade one unhealthy item for a healthy item. Don’t think of substitution as a sacrifice, instead look at it as an opportunity to improve your health in little ways. See the following examples:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Walk the dog instead of just letting it out in the backyard.
- Play an outdoor game with your kids instead of an indoor game.
- Buy plain popcorn instead of the buttery kind.
- Drink water in the morning instead of that soda you want.
- Take a walk during work breaks instead of chatting in the break room.
- Make a yummy salad for you and your kids instead of processed macaroni and cheese.
If you start these changes now, in just a few weeks you will notice the difference in the way you feel, but more importantly, how your heart feels. You will be able to see a reduction in the factors that contribute to heart disease. And over a year’s time, you will see a huge improvement in your next medical checkup and in your reduced stress levels.