By Lisa Schilling
February is Heart Health Month and there’s an emphasis on Women’s health.
With heart disease being the leading killer among women, education and awareness is important. Every February, articles offer advice such as exercising adequately, eating good quality food and getting proper rest to protect the heart.
Most women already know what they should be doing to be healthier. It is the feeling of “should be” that causes guilt and frustration in many women. Guilt and frustration usually lead to stress. Ironically, knowing what one should be doing, combined with not doing it, is a major risk factor for heart disease.
The heart is a vital organ in the body, its proper functioning is essential to health. It is also the essential home of our spiritual essence, as in: you will always be in my “heart.” We have all heard of heartache, heart sick and broken heart, these are all conditions of the spirit, not the actual organ. But some studies show that there is a distinct link between the two. What causes disease in the spirit has a direct correlation to disease in the body.
When a woman experiences stress, guilt or anguish the disease it causes in the spirit will affect the chemicals that the body produces. These so called, stress hormones have an effect on body functioning, studies show. Overtime this prolonged stress, combined with various other risk factors, can greatly impact one’s health.
This phenomenon is seen in men as well, but it seems to be a bigger risk factor for women. In part, this is due to the nurturing nature of women and their propensity to be a caregiver. It is this special quality that can actually lead to health issues if not managed properly. Women’s need to nurture and care for others often leads them to take less time for self-care.
For some women, taking time for self-care causes extreme guilt. This can lead them to become overburdened and under cared for. By not wanting to burden others, women often hide the symptoms of actual heart disease. This accounts for the reasons that many women do not seek treatment until they have a heart attack.
It is time for women to understand the underlying reasons that they are not nurturing themselves. The number one way women can reduce their risk for heart disease is to be vigilant in taking time for self-care. Making this acceptable, will release the guilt that leads to disease.
When women begin to value themselves and believe they are worthy of self-care, they will begin to do all of those heart healthy tips that are expounded during this month of focusing on heart health. Until then, they will continue to feel the pressure that comes with being excessively selfless, the kind of pressure that elevates their risk cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke.
By relaxing and focusing on self-fulfillment and work-life balance, women can begin to circulate heart healthy hormones. These activities not only keep the spirit strong, but can boost immune function by allowing women the freedom to participate in the behaviors that strengthen their health.
These activities not only keep the spirit strong but can boost immune function by strengthening the heart.
For years we have educated women “what to do,” now it is time to educate them “why to do it” and “how to do it.” This is an issue of the heart and the spirit as much as the organ itself. By addressing women’s nature to be a caregiver, and enabling them to be a receiver of care, we can empower them to actually make heart healthy choices without guilt.