February is American Heart Month and, unfortunately I don’t think most women realize that heart disease – not breast cancer – is the leading killer for women.  In fact, every minute in the United States a woman dies from heart disease, stroke, or other cardiovascular disease (CVD).  More than one in three women is living with CVD and nearly 72% of women age 60 – 79 have CVD.  And strokes are the leading cause of long-term disability for Americans.

Here’s the amazing fact – heart disease is completely preventable or controllable!  It’s about proper nutrition, exercise and managing existing medical conditions.  The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) recommends these easy tips for preventing heart disease:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables—adults should have at least 5 servings each day. Eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol. Limiting salt or sodium in your diet also can lower your blood pressure.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate a number called the body mass index (BMI). Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure a person’s body fat..
  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis. You can check your blood pressure at home, at a pharmacy, or at a doctor’s office.
  • Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit as soon as possible. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit.
  • Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can increase your blood pressure. Men should stick to no more than two drinks per day, and women to no more than one.
  • Have your cholesterol checked. Your health care provider should test your cholesterol levels at least once every 5 years. Talk with your doctor about this simple blood test.
  • Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels closely, and talk with your doctor about treatment options.
  • Take your medicine. If you’re taking medication to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Always ask questions if you don’t understand something.

Many women – especially busy moms – will overlook the subtle signs that they might be having a heart attack.  It’s not always a shooting pain down your right arm.  You could also experience pain in your jaw, neck or back.  You might also just feel light-headed or weak. It’s easy for anyone to ignore these signs but don’t – every second counts if you’re having a heart attack or stroke.

A great site for more resources is Million Hearts, a nationwide initiative whose goal is to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.

 

 

Disclosure; I received a Target gift care to purchase LISTERINE® Brand products from Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Products Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc. and The Motherhood as part of my participation in the LISTERINE® 21-Day Challeng.  All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

ListerineI’ll confess, I hate going to the dentist. I’m always worried I’m going to get called out for not flossing.  Don’t get me wrong, I have healthy teeth and gums, but when I’m asked the inevitable question “do you floss?” I kind of do some non-descript head nod while my mouth is conveniently stuck open with that little mirror thing.  I’m a typical mom – I’m constantly telling my kids what they should be doing and, for the most part, I set a good example.  But when it comes to flossing and rinsing, well, it’s a case of “do as I say, not as I do.”  There’s never enough time in the day to get everything done so it’s these self-care things that are first to fall-off the “to-do” list.  I know that my teeth could feel better if I flossed and rinsed but it hasn’t been a priority. So when I learned about the Listerine 21-Day Challenge and was invited to participate, I knew I had to do it.   We’re going to all become the flossing and rinsing champs in my family!

Today I’m going out to stock up at Target with the items I’ll need:

  • LISTERINE® Antiseptic
  • LISTERINE® SMART RINSE®
  • LISTERINE® WHITENING® Original Gel Flouride Anticavity Toothpaste
  • REACH® Floss

I’ll be posting again with our progress and also posting a “Swish Selfie” on the LISTERINE® Brand Facebook page.  Yeah, I know this sounds kind of weird but for every person who does, LISTERINE will make a $5.00 contribution to Oral Health America’s Smiles Across America® program, up to $85,000, towards their goal of connecting 210,000 children with needed oral health services in 2014.

So, whether you already “swish” or not, take a minute to post a selfie of you swishing with LISTERINE® – it’s that easy to help out a great cause and be healthy yourself!

I’m amazed at how many of my friends are to the point of an emotional breakdown trying to “get ready for Christmas.”  Even the phrase makes me laugh as it’s usually said with as much alarm as “getting ready for a snowstorm.”   There’s no doubt that this mass frenzy is imposed on us by retailers and the media.  And so, people race from store to store, buying gifts that will be forgotten in a few months, decorating the house and baking more cookies than anyone should eat in a year – all to create that elusive “picture-perfect Christmas.”

Until this year, I fell into that category as well.  I had list upon list of things that needed to get done.  I found myself snapping at the kids and my husband because I was so tense trying to make everyone happy for Christmas.  The image of Ellen Griswold from Christmas Vacation, desperately sneaking a cigarette in the kitchen as she’s trying to cope with her family always comes to mind.  This past Christmas, I hit my breaking point.  My uncle and cousin’s husband were both in the hospital, one dying of cancer, the other nearly dying from a case of MRSA he contracted in the hospital.  My mother was completely freaked out with stress dealing with my dad who has Alzheimer’s on Christmas Eve and then, I ended up at Urgent Care with him on Christmas Day for issues related to his diabetes.  I swore to myself I would never, EVER have a Christmas like that again.  In fact, I realized then that I needed to change the way I was coping with life every day of the year.

So I made some serious commitments that ended up changing my life and making me happier, healthier and more peaceful.   Here’s what they are:

I visualize – Regardless of what I’m dealing with right now, I focus on the way I want life to be and I see myself living it.

I pray – Prayer works.  And, with social media, asking for the prayers of friends makes it even stronger.  But, there’s a way to pray.  Praying to win a million dollars isn’t it.  Rather I pray for guidance, strength, peace and acceptance.

I breathe – I know that sounds strange but have you ever noticed when you’re stressed your entire body tenses up?  Practice taking 5 deep inhalations and exhalations while you’re sitting at a traffic light, in a meeting or whenever you need to release tension.

I meditate – Meditation can take many forms and can be done in as little as 5 minutes although the longer the better.  Some of the top CEO’s in the country attribute meditation to their success which is not surprising since studies have linked it to a decrease in blood pressure, reduction of chronic pain and the increase in circulation.

matan-cohen-citronI practice yoga – Often, I don’t have enough time for an entire yoga class so I practice for 10 minutes at home.  Even this small bit makes a complete difference in how I feel throughout the day.  But, when I can do a class, I’ve had the good fortunate of finding a yoga instructor who makes everyone feel at ease whether they’re a novice or more experienced.  The last thing anyone wants is to be stressed by a class that is supposed to be de-stressing you!

I realized this past week that I’m different this year.  I’m lighter and happier.  I’m not on edge and I’m certainly not stressed about “being ready for Christmas.”   I’m better able to deal with situations and stay calm.

So, here’s the question:

DO YOU WANT TO BE MORE JOYFUL AND LESS STRESSED?

Join me and yoga instructor Matan Cohen-Citron for a life-changing half-day retreat to learn how to become happier, healthier and in control of your own life.

REGISTER HERE FOR JANUARY 23RD EVENT

More than 2,000 Educators Rally to Create Healthy Smiles for a Successful School Year

colgate picEvery year, students in the United States miss more than 51 million hours of school instruction due to dental-related illness.To empower young students to maintain a healthy smile and excel in the classroom, Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures® has launched Smile for Picture Day™ – a new back-to-school campaign that uses the tradition of picture day to promote healthy brushing routines.

In partnership with Teach for America, a national non-profit dedicated to expanding educational opportunities for children facing the challenges of poverty, more than 2,000 educators from across the country will champion Smile for Picture Day™ in Kindergarten through grade 3 classrooms by sharing Colgate’s award winning Bright Smiles, Bright Futures® curriculum.  Additionally, Colgate’s fleet of mobile dental vans will travel to more than 150 elementary schools in September and October to provide Smile for Picture Day™ information and free dental screenings to children in need.

“Picture day is an iconic tradition that marks a new year of learning and special milestones. That moment should be captured with a healthy smile,” said Dr. Marsha Butler, Vice President of Global Oral Health and Professional Relations, a dentist who oversees the Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures® global program. “Poor oral health can significantly impact a child’s ability to eat, speak and learn. By showing children how to care for their smiles, we can help them to feel good about themselves and the school year ahead.”

“A bright smile reflects a child’s developing self-esteem and the promise of a healthy, successful school year,” said Whitney Petersmeyer, Senior Vice President of National Development at Teach for America. “Our teachers have seen first-hand the impact poor oral health can have on a child’s learning experience. We’re proud to team up with Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures® to provide underserved students the skills they need to take care of their smiles – for picture day and every day.”

Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures® is among the most far-reaching, successful children’s oral health initiatives in the world. With long-standing partnerships with governments, schools and communities, Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures® has reached more than half a billion children across 80 countries with free dental screenings and oral health education.

To champion Smile for Picture Day™ at home with your child or at your local school, please visit http://www.colgatebsbf.com/ to download and share Colgate’s free oral health education materials, videos and more.

 

 

In a perfect world, ex-spouses would get along and be happy building new, separate lives.  Or, there would be no children involved and the ex’s would no longer need to interact.

Life usually isn’t that perfect.

As part of my “Caring for the Caregiver Series”, learning how to deal with the additional stress of a toxic relationship with your ex-spouse is imperative.  Let’s face it, they know how to push your buttons like no one else.  And, if you had an experience like me of being in an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship the wounds are deep and it takes time and hard work to recover.   Here are some tips for healing yourself and managing the relationship.

Remember that you’re not married anymore! – This seems fairly obvious, but when your ex pushes those buttons, it’s easy to forget that this person is no longer connected to you.  Remember the childhood phrase “sticks and stones….”  You can walk away, ignore the e-mail or text or politely hang up the phone.  In other words, disengage.

Choose what you respond to –There’s nothing to say that you must respond to your ex.  If it involves the kids yes, but other than that there’s really not much reason to reply or engage.  When you do respond, take your time to form your response and position it in a business-like manner and, here’s the important part, with no emotion.  Short, sweet and to the point.  You also don’t have to respond immediately.  Assign a separate e-mail for your ex so that you choose when to look at it.  Allow your ex’s calls to go to voice mail so you can formulate your response.  And, if you can’t respond verbally without emotion, then send an e-mail.  Take control of how and when you respond.

Cut mutual ties  – When a couple breaks up it’s hard on friends as they invariably are drawn to one spouse or the other.  Sometimes, however, when your friends have children who are friendly with your children, you have no choice but to maintain the connection.  This can be difficult if they don’t see how toxic the relationship with your ex is for you.   If associating with these people is causing you more stress than enjoyment, you can allow your children to have playdates, but put some distance between yourself and your friend.  Friendships evolve or expire and new ones form with people you’d least expect.

Rediscover you –Most likely, you became a different person in your marriage.  And, there’s a good chance you didn’t like that person.  Take some time to get back to the person you were before you were married.  Maybe you left a career you enjoyed or dropped an activity you were passionate about.  Chances are that you have a parenting visitation plan that allows you to have some alone time.  Instead of being depressed and missing the kids, use it to take a class or do something you used to enjoy.  Not only will this make you happier but emotionally stronger.  And, by redefining yourself, you’ll be more able to see your toxic ex in a more objective, less emotional manner.

coreyWhile the cause of death for Corey Monteith has not been confirmed, what is known is that he has struggled with substance abuse issues for many years and had entered rehab in April to get help.

Corey’s death is tragic but he is just one of so many people in this country with abuse issues who sadly can’t overcome them.   Even though someone may have successfully gone through the stages of rehab, they may not be in the clear afterwards.  It is estimated that 90 percent of drug rehab patients have had at least one relapse before they finally accomplish permanent sobriety.

However, a relapse does not necessarily begin when you start using drugs again; it can be a slow process that begins before you actually start using them.  It’s important to still monitor your child after rehab in the chance that they could have a “slip.”

Signs of a drug relapse are very different for every person; however, here are some common warning signs that your child could be on the road to a relapse:

  1. Increased level of stress

After going through drug rehab and coming home, stress levels can be elevated.  Although a little bit of stress is anticipated once a patient returns to the “real world” after rehab, it is important to monitor the mood of your child.   Observe your child and ensure that he/she is not over-reacting to situations, having drastic mood swings or negative feelings.

  1. Anti-social butterfly

Once a patient completes rehab, they may feel out of their element when reunited with family and friends.  Your child may feel uncomfortable and nervous around people that he/she used to spend so much time around.  Your child may also neglect going to support group meetings.  Make certain that your child does not begin to isolate him/herself, or that could cause them to relapse.

  1. No daily structure

Another sign of relapse is neglecting the daily routine that was developed in early abstinence.  Your child may have noticeable changes in sleeping patterns, overlook personal hygiene or skip meals.  These are all warning signs of a step in the wrong direction.  Help your child maintain a structured daily schedule and support them throughout the day so that relapse does not occur.

  1. “Just one is ok”

Your child may convince him/herself that “just one” drug won’t hurt and this is one of the clearest signs of an impending relapse.  It is extremely difficult for those in recovery to realize that life was not bad prior to using drugs and that he/she can make a change in his/her life.  Monitor your child’s actions and ensure that there are no drugs in sight to say “just one is ok.”

  1. Thoughts of suicide

A person trying to recovery from a drug addition may experience feelings of depression.  Your child could feel trapped by the inability to change his/her life after rehab and believe that the only way out is to return to using drugs, or worse, commit suicide.  If your child shows increased levels of loneliness, frustration, resentment, or is not attending treatment or counseling sessions, provide help for your child ASAP.  Call the National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Disclaimer – I have a material connection because I received a gift or sample of a product for consideration in preparing to write this content. All opinions stated within are my own.

JollyTimeI’ve been on a mission: to get my family eating gluten free snacks. The problem is, though, that…well, with kids, it’s difficult. Trying to find snacks for school that are quick to put together in the morning and that they will actually eat isn’t easy.   They do, however like popcorn which, for anyone who didn’t know, is indeed gluten free.  I devour the stuff as well.  My only issue is how much fat is in the microwave brands, which are the easiest to make in the mornings and at night for sleepovers and family movie night.  I like to make my popcorn on the stove top (the “old fashioned” way) but I’m just too lazy to do that in the morning and too tired to do it at night.  And no, being the Safety Mom, I’m not going to let my kids make their own popcorn over an open flame.

So I was definitely psyched when the folks at Jolly Time sent me boxes of their new popcorn made with Smart Balance.  It has zero grams of trans fat and zero hydrogenated oil.  I was sure my kids would eat it but I’ve become particular about my popcorn since I’m eating tons of it but it passed my taste test as well.  And, I have to admit, I love being able to have the kids make it for themselves again.

 

I Decided Not To Act Like a Typical Woman and Find Out

iheartAs a mom , “do as I say not as I do” is too often the standard way of operating – from telling our kids to eat right, not drive while talking or texting and to get enough exercise.  We know that actions speak louder than words but sometimes it’s hard to adhere to our own rules.  As The Safety Mom, I blog about the importance of women taking care of themselves as well as their families.  More than once I’ve posted about how we put ourselves last and forget about keeping ourselves healthy.  Well, yesterday I had the chance to lead by example.

For those of you who’ve never met me in person, I’m rather petite, in good shape, don’t smoke and eat right.  I’m not saying this for any other reason than to clarify that I’m certainly not in the “high risk” category for having a heart attack.  But, yesterday morning I felt two mild pains in my chest that lasted for about 30 seconds.  It wasn’t a pain that catches your breath, but more of a surprise.   It was gone so quickly I didn’t really dwell on it.  In the early afternoon I suddenly realized that my left arm felt numb and tingly.   I began going through all of the reasons this might be occurring.  I had just returned from a blogger trip on Tuesday night and was wheeling some heavy luggage through the airport – maybe that was causing it.  I tend to write with my laptop on my lap sitting in a chair – maybe it had simply fallen asleep.  But something nagged at me when I coupled this with the two chest pains I had had earlier in the day.

That’s when I realized I needed to decide what I wanted to do.  I work with my husband from our home office but he was out with his children since it’s spring break.  My kids are with their dad this week.    I tried to call him but got his voice mail.  I knew he was planning on stopping by a client’s home so I could drive over there.  I figured I just wanted some assurance that I was being silly.  As I got into my car I finally started to question – am I having a heart attack?  As I got to the end of the street I had a decision to make – I could turn left and find my husband or I could turn right and drive myself to the ER.  I sat at that stop sign for a good two minutes.  I recalled my friend up the street – a 42 year-old woman who is an avid runner and extremely healthy who ignored some symptoms she was having for about 2 hours and went into cardiac arrest when she finally had her husband call an ambulance.  I thought of the blogs I right about how women regularly ignore symptoms and justify this by explaining they’re just too busy to get something checked out.  But mostly I thought about my kids.  How if they had something bothering them I wouldn’t hesitate in taking them to the ER.

So I turned right.  I still felt slight silly and over-dramatic.  From the valet parker to the admitting nurse at the ER, I kept apologizing and telling them I’m rather embarrassed to even be there.  They, however, did not think I was silly.  By then I had reached my husband.  How do you tell the person you love that you don’t want to upset them but you just drove yourself to the ER because you’re worried you might be having a heart attack?

My first EKG was “abnormal” but my second was normal.  My blood tests showed that I had not had a “cardiac event” but the doctor wanted me to stay overnight to do a stress test in the morning.  While I haven’t been given a definitive diagnosis it appears that I have some sort of arrhythmia.

I think it’s hard for women like myself, who appear and feel completely healthy, to grasp that something might not be as it seems.  Denial is a powerful force.   But I’m proud of myself for listening to my own advice and that of my neighbors and not ignoring a health warning.

Have you ever been in a similar situation where you weren’t sure if you should check out a health concern?  What was your choice?  Feel free to post a comment.  I think it’s important we all support each other.