When I hopped on the weight loss / fitness bandwagon, women's heart disease sort of became "my cause." It's the number one killer of women, but often goes unnoticed because the symptoms are so quiet, and SO different from the stereotypical heart-attack image we have come to know in men (clutching the chest, gasping, arm/shoulder pain). It's a silent killer -- but with the recent attention paid to women's heart health, awareness is being brought to the public.
My parents and I were on the host committee for the recent "Spirit of the Heart" gala for the MHFI -- it was a pretty amazing dinner, dance, and live auction. Prior to this event, I attended a lecture where the topic was "BROKEN HEART SYNDROME."
Basically, victims -- almost exclusively women -- suffer what is similar to a massive heart attack (although instead of myocardial infarction, it's cardiomyopathy), brought on SOLELY by stress -- these women have healthy hearts. They have low (or no!) instances of heart disease or other medical conditions, yet they can possibly DIE from a sudden heart crisis based solely on stress and emotions.
And it's almost exclusively women.
I don't know exactly what this says about women and the way we internalize stress and emotional upset, but it scares me. When I think about all the roles I play in my life (daughter/sister/granddaughter/friend/employee/volunteer/pet owner / home owner), and all the opportunities for stress (social life / work / volunteering / family obligations / recent emotional turmoil / exercise & diet obligations), I start to worry about my little heart, both literally and figuratively -- and now it sounds like the figurative worry can TRANSLATE into the literal. When I embarked on this weight loss and fitness routine, learning how to say "no" was one of the hardest parts -- I'm naturally inclined to try to Be All Things To All People, and I hate disappointing people. But learning the skill of what I call "healthy selfishness" was probably the smartest thing I ever did in ways that affect my life every day. I still love to be there and care for the people I love -- but sometimes, it is to a lesser degree than my old, fatter days.
I love the analogy of the airplane oxygen mask -- the flight attendants always preach that adults should secure their own masks before attempting to help others -- even their children. It's a reminder that unless we are the best versions of ourselves, we are really no good to anybody else.
So today, take this as a reminder to take time to slow down, appreciate life, and don't sweat the small stuff (and it's all small stuff!). Take time for a run, a walk, a bike ride, a yoga class. To read a book, have a cup of tea, a laughter-inducing phone call with a friend, or whatever will clear your head and your heart (again, both literally and figuratively).
Check back tomorrow for TAKE IT AND RUN THURSDAY -- the topic is life lessons learned on the pavement.
Off and running,
PS: I accidentally over-caffeinated this morning -- 2 cups, when I normally only have half or one cup... so the run I'm about to head out on should be a great one!