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    Heart Health is Self-Care

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | January 31st, 2021

    Heart Health is Self-Care

    When you hear the word self-care, what comes to mind? For some, it is a day in the spa, getting a pedicure, manicure, and a massage. It is being totally pampered. For others, it is me time, away from the children, relaxing on the couch doing nothing. And others, it is having someone do the things that we hate to do – clean, grocery shop or cook. Self-care is an opportunity for us to take care of ourselves without worrying about others. Self-care is not selfish. When we take care of ourselves, we are able to better care for others.

    February is American Heart Month and the theme this year is Heart Health is Self-Care.  This theme can be interpreted in so many ways. My interpretation is that everything we do truly starts from our heart – a place of love. Love for ourselves so that we can do what is necessary to love others.

    Here are some facts:

    • Heart disease, which includes stroke, claims the lives of a woman every 80 seconds. About 80 percent of heart diseases may be prevented.
    • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. One in every five female deaths is cause by heart disease.
    • The risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high LDL(low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol , diabetes, obesity/overweight, smoking, family history of heart disease and prolonged exposure to stress. An example of stress is seen in the form of perceived racism which produces a higher cortisol level which can lead to increased risk of heart disease.
    • Heart disease is more common in Black women than in women of other races. One in every two Black women in the U.S. has heart disease.

    American Heart Month reminds us that heart disease is a big issue and we can all make a difference. It starts with Heart Health is Self-Care.  The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provide us with 28 days towards a healthy heart. Please click here for more information.

    I want to call out some dates on this 28-day journey:

    Day 1 (February 1, 2021) – call a friend and join the #OurHearts movement – you can share this post with a friend to inform them on what they can do to promote a healthy heart.

    Day 5 (February 5, 2021) – this Friday is National Wear Red Day.  When people ask you why you are wearing red, you can tell them that heart disease is the #1 killer of women and we can all play a role in changing the stats.

    Day 8 (February 8, 2021) – Get your blood pressure checked.  I want to make sure that everyone at least knows what their blood pressure readings were in the past year. We want our blood pressure less than 130/80. If you have high blood pressure and you are taking medication, you should own a blood pressure cuff and less than 130/80 should be your goal. If you have high blood pressure and you are planning on becoming pregnant, have your health care provider review your medication to make sure that you are on medication that is safe for pregnancy.

    I am looking forward to this 28-Day Healthy Heart Journey towards Self-Care.

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    With her trademark wit and straightforward communication, Dr. Osuagwu continues to dole out valuable medical advice using the letter form and addressing women’s health conditions and issues in a method that was praised for its innovative approach in her earlier award-winning book, Letters to My Sisters: Plain Truths and Straightforward Advice from a Gynecologist. In this book, each letter is paired with reference sources and statistics about the condition that is the subject of the letter.

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    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.

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