Did you know that today is National Wear Red for Women Day? Fifteen years ago today, the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute launched a campaign to raise awareness about one of the number one causes of death of women in the US today: heart disease. Wearing red is one way to show support and continue to raise awareness about the ways that heart disease affects women, and working towards better outcomes for women who do face this disease.
Education should start early, and today I wanted to shed a little bit of light on some of the ways that pregnancy and birth can influence or relate to future heart health.
Risks During Pregnancy
If you think heart health only applies to women later in life, you should be aware that there are some conditions associated with pregnancy that correlate to later heart disease. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, these conditions include:
- Pregnancy induced hypertension
- Gestational diabetes
Risks Related to Reproductive Health Before and After Pregnancy
It's not just pregnancy. There are also some factors before and after pregnancy that can increase a women's risk of heart disease later in life including:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrom (PCOS)
- Use of hormonal birth control
- Hormonal therapy for menopause
How to Minimize Your Risk of Heart Disease
If you do experience one of these conditions or treatments before, during, or after pregnancy, the good news is that you CAN do some things to help minimize the risk of heart disease later in life. These things include:
- Getting regular screening and check-ups. If you experience a heart-related condition during pregnancy, let your general doctor know, so that they can continue to help you monitor your overall health.
- Regular moderate exercise to help strengthen your heart and blood vessels.
- Eating well, including eating good fats, fiber, and proteins, while limiting excess sugars, bad fats, and excess sodium.
- Maintaining a healthy weight for your individual body, so that your body and heart do not have to work too hard to keep you going.
- Quitting smoking (if you smoke).
These are all things that most women can do, even while pregnant! If you have questions about how to incorporate healthy eating or exercise into your life, especially while pregnant, be sure to talk to your doctor or midwife. Your doulas are also happy to help you come up with questions for your doctor or midwife, and information and resources to help you start to figure out how to make lifestyle changes for better heart health. Because you deserve it!