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Today’s guest post is by Pamela Hernandez. Pamela is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and an ACE Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach. This month, she writes about how women can take charge of their own destinies by preventing heart disease with proper diet and exercise. Pamela is the owner of Thrive Personal Fitness. Follow her healthy weight loss and fitness tips on twitter: @thrivefit. She is ThriveFit on DailyBurn Tracker. Enjoy! – Team DB
September was National Ovarian Cancer Month. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But did you know that the #1 killer of women isn’t either of these diseases?
Most people think of coronary heart disease (CHD) as predominantly a men’s issue. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control, CHD killed 1 in every 4 women in 2006. In 2004, with a mission to increase awareness of CHD and it’s unique impacts on women, The American Heart Association (AHA) launched the Go Red For Women initiative.
Go Red For Women encourages awareness of the issue of women and heart disease, and also action to save more lives. The movement harnesses the energy, passion and power women have to band together and collectively wipe out heart disease. It challenges them to know their risk for heart disease and take action to reduce their personal risk. It also gives them the tools they need to lead a heart healthy life.
We may know the most common risk factors, like high blood pressure and smoking, but did you know that certain risk factors effect women differently? The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute says:
• Diabetes raises the risk of CHD more in women than it does men.
• Women who smoke and take birth control pills are at a very high risk for CHD.
• Estrogen has a protective effect against CHD, so after menopause (or about age 55) a women’s risk of CHD increases.
• Anemia, which is much more common in women, increases your risk of CHD because the lack of iron to support red blood cells makes your work harder.
I became more educated about women and heart disease as the personal trainer for the local BetterU Challenge, a 12 week heart and health makeover program that is a part of the Go Red Initiative. My group of 10 ladies started in June with the goal of making a difference in their own risk factors and to become health ambassadors, sharing what they learned each week with others.
The challengers came to our first meeting in June with lots of optimism and a desire to make big changes in all their numbers. I wanted to help them accomplish all their goals but I also knew 12 weeks would go very fast and the ultimate goal was to set a foundation for a healthy life. How does a personal trainer find that balance between the desire for quick change and establishing good habits to set them on a journey to last a lifetime?
My plan was to establish clear and realistic goals for pounds to be lost or points lowered in LDL or triglycerides. Then I told them to tuck these outcome goals in the back of their minds and focus on behavior goals. The behavior goals would be things they could directly control. By focusing on goals that they could control I knew they would get a sense of accomplishment without getting overwhelmed. The small but impactful goals would also help them impact their individual risk factors. Here’s a sample of the goals we set and why:
• I will have only one sweet treat a week. Sweets and overly processed starchy carbs affect triglyceride levels. Triglycerides higher than 150 increases your risk of CHD.
• I will eat one serving of oats or beans each day. The soluble fiber in oats and beans can help lower LDL levels. LDL levels higher than 100 increases CHD risk.
• I will exercise daily for 10 minutes. Going from zero minutes to 10 minutes is a big improvement. Plus, once you do 10 minutes you’re likely start doing more. Inactive people are twice as likely to develop CHD.
• When I eat out I will pick options with less than 500 calories. Restaurant portion are out of control so it’s important to use your tools to not overeat when eating on the go. Extra calories lead to extra pounds. A BMI (body mass index) greater than 24.9 increases your risk of CHD.
At the end of 12 weeks the group lost 76 pounds.
Some of the more notable results included an almost 600 point drop in triglycerides for one participant. Another saw a 43 point drop in fasting glucose. Everyone left with a new attitude about fitness and their ability to impact their own health outcomes.
Are you ready to lower your risk of coronary heart disease? Take one of the above goals and make it your own. And check out the free online BetterU program for more tips, tools and tracks to makeover your heart and health.
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