June is the Heart Foundation's Go Red for Women month. Heart disease is No.1 killer of Australian women. The Go Red for Women campaign is designed to raise awareness about women and heart disease, encourage women to understand the risks and make healthier choices to reduce their risk. It’s a great opportunity to find out how you can improve your heart health and help other women do the same.
As someone with a chronic illness, it is easier to focus on maintaining my skin condition at its optimum than monitoring my general health. The pain of my skin is so obvious - and the stress my heart and other internal organs may be under is not so obvious. But, like I wrote in April after going to a Heart Foundation cooking class, whole of body health is so important - especially heart health. I don’t want to be slowed down with poor health. I want to be present for my friends and family. I want to continue to enjoy the great life that I’ve created for myself. And so following on from that post – writing things down for the world keeps you accountable, right?! – I made an appointment with my GP, to get an overdue examination.
We talked a little about heart health. The Heart Foundation outlines the things you should discuss with your GP in this document. I didn't know that 90% of Australian women have at least one risk factor for heart disease, but on learning this fact, I did know that it'd be likely that I'd have at least one risk factor. And my appointment with my GP confirmed that I did.
The GP listened to my heart (just like Roxette sang) and took my blood pressure (normal – though it’s usually very low when I’m in hospital). I was pleased to know my blood pressure is optimal for low heart disease risk.
I was weighed and while I am not overweight, my GP encouraged me to lose a few kilos and to tone up a bit, so I can get back to the lower end of the BMI index. I’ve been mindful of my food intake (especially when at home) and plan to resume dance class next term. We talked about losing five kilos slowly and gently, which I think is doable. Weirdly I have been dreaming of getting my body moving – I dreamed of running on the treadmill the other night. It’s a sign. I still have a gym membership...
My GP asked me more questions about my lifestyle. I told him I am not a smoker (never smoked), drink moderately and eat a balanced diet full of fresh whole foods - which are all positives for good heart health. I have stocked up on porridge supplies for breakfast at my desk - five grain oats, nuts, LSA, chia, dates, plain yoghurt and frozen berries plus whatever fresh fruit I have on hand. I love starting the day off so well.
I then braved it and had a blood test which covered iron, cholesterol, diabetes, lipids, vitamin D and my liver. I am pretty hardy when it comes to medical procedures but I don’t do blood tests very well. Ichthyosis means finding a vein can be very difficult – and I panic and it hurts even when the nurse is feeling for a vein, and then I cry. The nurse at the GP clinic couldn’t do the test while I was there because she couldn't find a vein, so I went to the pathology clinic at the hospital before my dermatology appointment. Fortunately the pathology nurse was a pro and she found a vein straight away, used a butterfly needle and it was all over in a minute. While I felt very faint, I didn’t cry. Or “cryperventilate” as a friend termed. Hah!
My blood test results will be in on Saturday - and depending on the results, I will make some more small changes to my lifestyle. (And Saturday is also when I go for that pap smear
I've been putting off never had.)
It feels good to be to be taking responsibility for my whole of body health. It's not often I voluntarily have a blood test and put myself at risk of cryperventilating. But I know that results of my blood test along with the discussion with my GP, doing more physical activity and cutting down on the cheese and pork belly (to slim down my belly), will help me create a better lifestyle for a healthier heart so I can continue loving life for a long time.
To find out more about Women and Heart Disease, you can read the facts in this brochure from the Heart Foundation.
You can also call the Health Information Service on 1300 362 787 during business hours (local charges apply). Ask them any questions about the concerns you have. And if you think you are experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack, call an ambulance immediately. A false alarm is the best outcome.
Disclaimer: I was paid to write this post and used medical information about heart health supplied and endorsed by doctors at the Heart Foundation and from my GP. My choice of GP was my own and the opinions expressed in this post are my own.