Taking care of your heart is a precious gift to your children

I see women in the role of caregiver on a daily basis. As a pediatric cardiologist I have spent more than a decade talking with parents, usually mothers, about the condition of their child’s heart.

As the childhood obesity epidemic has gained more widespread attention, mothers are increasingly bringing their children to see me at the Doernbecher Dyslipidemia Clinic.

We discuss:

  • Altering the family shopping list and meal preparation to provide their children a heart-healthy diet.
  • Making sure their children exercise on a daily basis.
  • Instilling heart-healthy behaviors at an early age.
  • Minimizing the risks of heart disease, such as smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol.

It’s not easy to provide a healthy lifestyle for a family in today’s world, and women are increasingly adding it to their already busy lives and list of responsibilities. While women seem hardwired to take care of others, they typically leave very little time or energy for their own health.  If you’re one of the millions of women who feel that heart disease is a man’s issue, take a look at these statistics:

  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women.
  • More women die of cardiovascular disease than the next five causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer.
  • While 1 in 30 American women die of breast cancer, about 1 in 3 die from cardiovascular disease.
  • Only 1 in 5 women believe that heart disease is her greatest health threat.
  • Heart disease is largely preventable.

If the leading cause of death is largely preventable, why do women typically spend so little time and energy taking care of ourselves? Where did we learn to be so selfless? Likely from our mothers and grandmothers – but would any of us want our daughter to place her health as a last priority? So, why do we?

As I see more and more women working hard to provide their families a healthy lifestyle I am so pleased that large organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA) are working to help us take care of ourselves as well.

The AHA’s Go Red For Women movement is an initiative to educate women about their risks of heart disease and provide them with the resources to begin living a heart-healthy life. The AHA Go Red For Women website is a wonderful resource filled with information, age-based prevention tips, support and tools to help women take care of themselves.

Being selfless has long been considered a virtue for women, but in the long run we do our families more good by teaching our children, through our own example, how to live healthy lives. It’s one of the most precious gifts a mother can give to her children, and their children, and their children.

Laurie Armsby, M.D.
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Cardiovascular Medicine
Pediatric Interventional Cardiologist
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital
OHSU Pediatric and Adult Congenital Cardiac Catheterization Lab


2 responses to “Taking care of your heart is a precious gift to your children

  1. I appreciated this post on so many levels. My son was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma in Oct 2009 – through that journey it became apparent that self-care was a need and not just for me. I have taken his circumstance and turned it in to something beautiful, retreats, coaching and workshops for moms of children with cancer. Thank you for writing this article. I will happily share it!!!

  2. Thank you, Sharla! I’m glad you found this post helpful. I’ll be sure to let Dr. Armsby know how much you liked her blog post. -Anne

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