Did you know that about 1 out of every 125 infants is born with a congenital heart defect (CHD) each year in the U.S.? CHDs are among the most common birth defects and are the leading cause of birth defect-related infant deaths.
We worry a lot about our babies and their hearts, but do you think enough about your own heart? Since February is American Heart Month, and pregnancy puts a fair amount of physical stress on a woman, I thought it a good time to mention taking care of your own ticker before you conceive. Not thinking about pregnancy? You still need to read this. No matter what our age, here are some things each of us can do to help improve our heart health.
Stop smoking – Even if you do smoke, you’ve got to know it’s not good for you. But did you know smoking may make it harder for you to get pregnant? And if you smoke while you’re pregnant, your baby is at greater risk for being born prematurely or too small?
Have your doc check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If they test high, take steps to bring them down. Most health care providers want your BP to be at or below 120/80 and total cholesterol to be below 200.
If you have a family history of diabetes, get your blood sugar checked. Make sure you get into a program to help keep it in control before and during pregnancy.
Eat right – Eat foods from each of the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, proteins (like chicken, fish and dried beans), grains, and milk products. Easy does it on salt and avoid foods high in fat and sugar.
Get to a good weight – If you’re not at your ideal weight (too many holiday treats?) knock off a few pounds, or gain ‘em if you need ‘em. Exercise regularly and get fit. Exercising for 30 minutes on all or most days of the week is a good way to help maintain or lose weight, build fitness and reduce stress.
Reduce your daily stress – Pregnancy is a stressful time for many women. You may be feeling happy, sad and scared—all at the same time. It’s okay to feel like that, but doing what you can to reduce stress before pregnancy can help you better manage extra stress associated with pregnancy. And if you’re not considering pregnancy, reducing stress can improve your quality of life in general. Sounds good to me!