As hard as it is to believe, it’s already February. (Didn’t we just take down the Christmas tree?) Everyone, of course, knows that February is all about Valentine’s Day, but it also celebrates a cause very close to my heart. February is American Heart Month and today in particular is National Wear Red Day. You’ve likely seen this movement and know a thing or two about it, but I want to draw attention to it – just for us moms.
I recently became more involved with the Cincinnati chapter of the American Heart Association and was lucky to be able to meet with other survivors. You see, at 27 and then again at 32, I had open-heart surgery to replace a valve that was an issue since birth. At the time of my second surgery, my babies were 23 months and 5 months old and I vowed right then to change my lifestyle to make sure I was doing everything within my power to keep my heart healthy. At this meeting, I learned that many other women have been through similar situations – some younger, some older – but I quickly caught on to something we all had in common.
As moms, we put everyone else first. I don’t know about you, but even our dog gets his breakfast in the morning before I do. We make sure to schedule all of the checkups, talk to teachers about issues at school and ensure our kids have appropriate clothes to wear each season. One thing we are not always good at – focusing on ourselves. Most of the women at this meeting, as they shared their stories, said something to the effect of, “I was too busy taking care of everything and everyone to notice anything was wrong.” Many of them had symptoms for days, but ignored them. Not because they didn’t care, but because they were busy caring for everyone else.
As I prepared for my second surgery, I constantly had to push the “what if’s” out of my mind. While a valve replacement isn’t typically life threatening, you never know what will happen when you go in for major surgery. But I’d be lying if I said the thought of my kids growing up without a mom didn’t cross my mind. Once the surgery was successful and I was cleared to focus on my overall health, I did just that. While a congenital condition was not within my control, my day-to-day choices are most definitely something that affects my life – and my family’s. Ever since, I’ve been working toward a more active and healthy lifestyle to keep my heart strong and do my part in preventing other ailments.
I challenge you to put your heart first. Make choices to keep it strong physically and emotionally. If you need a place to start or have any questions about heart health, the Go Red for Women site is a great resource. Also, ask your doctor (when you make your checkup), what you can do to prevent heart disease and stroke. Your heart is a very precious thing, filled with so much love, and it’s worth putting it fi