Did you know that February, among other things, is American Heart Month? Did you also know that heart disease is the number one killer of women? It's a fairly available statistic, but I haven't really thought about it before.
I know that heart disease is present in my family medical history, as is diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, and I should probably be concerned about those things in my own health. I asked my doctor how I can avoid those health problems as I age, and I was a little shocked by his response. I was expecting a laundry list of supplements that I could take or a book I could read, but what he told me was this: Eat right and exercise.
Hm. Well, I knew that already. Thanks for the consultation.
Surely health isn't that simple. I mean, these are things we all do normally anyway, right? Right. I do eat fairly healthy and balanced meals. I also consume quite a bit of sugar and fat in between them. I would like to say that I go to cardio kickboxing class twice a week, walk the other days, and squeeze in a yoga workout every other day to unwind. Reality: These days, even though it is my favorite way to exercise, I make it to cardio maybe once week, and that is after I took a two month break during the holidays. The pace of my walking depends on the pace of my toddler, and well, yoga just isn't as beneficial when a two-year-old is jumping on your back while you're trying to push up into a cobra.
I do think that heart health is attainable, and it's one of those things that I can actually influence if I, well, TRY. There are so many diseases and conditions that just happen (if you want a list, watch House). If heart disease is avoidable by me taking control of my choices, don't I owe it to myself and to my family to not self-destruct? Especially if all that it takes is "eating right and exercising?" It's not always that basic, I know, and genes do play a role, but that seems like a fairly decent place to start.
So, I am happy to say that I started kickboxing again this weekend, and while I am quite sore I can already feel my heart beating with more strength. I have to admit that I was actually afraid to go back to class. Yes, part of that was the fear of passing out on the mat in the middle of the workout, but even more so was the fear that I had failed by missing two months of class. I was afraid to see my instructor, afraid that he might be upset with me for not making time to be there. I was afraid of his disappointment--I felt like I had been doing so well, and then I just stopped cold. When I walked into the studio Friday night, my instructor was sitting behind the desk as the previous class finished.
I swallowed hard, walked up to him, and said, "Can I come back?"
He said, "Sure."
Not, "well, I guess so," or "only if you promise not to fail this time."
Apparently, unlike me, he had spent a considerable amount of time NOT dwelling on my failure. I went to the mat, kicked and punched my way into breathlessness, and then went home. It was completely NOT the big deal I had imagined in the previous weeks, and I feel pretty foolish to have been so worried.
I can't believe that I would let my fear of failure and my totally unwarranted fear of judgment get in the way of my well-being. That's a perfectionist for you.
If you visit the AHA's Go Red for Women website, you will see a window on the right-hand side that says, "The Choice Is Yours." Under it is a list of heart-healthy choices. I've decided that for right now my choice is, "I choose to move, not sit."
What about you? What choices are you making? Is anything standing in the way of you acting on those choices?