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Women need to shift focus of caring to self


Last updated 10/3/2019 at 1:57pm | View PDF

When does it start? When do women reach the point at which they begin to neglect their own physical and mental health to care for others?

Frankly, most women eventually do this. Other people's needs tend to take priority over our own well-being - first for work, then for a spouse and kids, maybe even parents and grandparents.

It's instinctual. And it's not easy to balance everything. Self-care is often the first thing erased from a busy schedule.

Considering how easy it can be to take care of your health, though, we shouldn't let that happen.

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S. This statistic should be a wake-up call. You deserve to live a healthy life for years to come. And the people who love you are counting on it.

So, when you make a doctor appointment for your child, schedule one for yourself as well. Do you know your blood pressure? Your cholesterol numbers? One 30-minute check-up and a quick lab visit can answer these questions.

When your child is busy at soccer practice or dance class, what do you do, Mom? Instead of answering work email, take a brisk walk. Listen to music you love. Meditate.

Find ways to schedule self-care. Take charge of your health. Make it your project. Recruit your friends to live healthier, too.

If this means scheduling time on your calendar to de-stress, check in with your doctor or take a yoga or spin class (or, heck, even a quiet evening walk), do it! Your loved ones will be OK without you for a while and will probably be happy to see you taking care of yourself. Modeling self-care for children also helps teach them how important it is, setting them on a healthier path.

The more we know about taking care of our health, the easier it is to get it done.

That's why I'm proud to chair the American Heart Association's 2019-20 Chicago Go Red for Women campaign with my colleague and campaign vice chair, Gina Sharp, president and CEO of Linden Oaks Behavioral Health. Go Red for Women is a national movement to end heart disease and stroke in women. This cause is meaningful to me, as a nurse and a woman.

Our Healthy Driven team at Edward-Elmhurst Health is also working hard to raise awareness of heart health. We have 27 teams preparing to walk in the American Heart Association's Metro Chicago Heart Walk in Oak Brook on Sept. 21.

Last time I checked, they had surpassed their fundraising goal and were still going strong. Every dollar they're raising will support lifesaving research.

Good heart health is so vital and simple to maintain. Along with healthy food, regular exercise, mental health breaks and quality sleep, be sure to schedule annual visits with your primary care doctor.

Ladies, move your heart health to the top of your to-do list.

Here's to many happy, healthy years to come.

- Mary Lou Mastro is the president and CEO of Edward-Elmhurst Health.


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