The doctor looked at me in July and said, "Amy...if you don't get your blood pressure under control, you will die of a heart attack just like your dad."
It stopped me dead in my tracks.
I've been battling high blood pressure and an inability to lose weight for 4 years, and I have fully attributed it to having kids.
I was scared of the scale and came up with every excuse in the book.
I ran marathons, changed up diet plans, and felt like I was trying everything yet seeing no change.
So when we got to Kansas and my doctor said those words to me, I was shook.
I've been having readings of 140+ over 90+ for the last year. For those unaware, that is considered hypertension (or high blood pressure).
Normal blood pressure readings should be below 120 and 80.
This is the first time I'm sharing this, because quite honestly...I've been scared.
I felt like the longer I went without saying it, the less true it was.
She told me I had two choices:
1. To start meds right away.
2. To really focus on getting my health right this year and starting meds at our next duty station if it doesn't change. (which I WILL do if it doesn’t change).
I chose the latter.
Cause I'm only freaking 33 years old and I’m just not ready to start blood pressure meds yet!
And also because I felt like this was the kick in the butt I needed to get my health under control.
I needed to hear the words, “YOU WILL DIE, AMY.”
I've been saying "I'm trying to lose my baby weight" for almost 3 years now. I joke that eventually I will say "I'm trying to lose my teenage weight."
And I know some will say "you look great Amy!" and to "love the skin you're in" and “you’re perfect to God!” and I promise I am ALL about that.
But here’s the thing I want to scream loud and clear…”YOU DECIDE IF YOU’RE HAPPY OR NOT IN YOUR SKIN. You can choose to want to LOOK better because you know that the underlying concept of that is because you are LIVING healthier. and please don’t let anyone make you feel bad for wanting to make that change about yourself. I know my God wants me to be healthy. It’s not in vain. He says our bodies are our temples and to PROTECT THEM. Have confidence in doing that for yourself.”
I'm not about being skinny. I’m about being healthy.
I’m about loving myself, in my skin, AND seeing my grandkids grow old.
I do NOT want to die early from a heart attack. I am living through the hell of losing my dad when I was only 31 years old and I do not want my kids to lose me at that age. I don’t want to miss out on their kid’s lives.
There’s nothing I wish more than to have my daddy here to watch Everly play soccer this year.
IT KILLS ME INSIDE.
But I won’t let my health kill me.
It’s time for change.
I've played sports my whole life, run marathons, trained for figure competitions, and flown helicopters for the Army.
I didn't make it to 33 to start to lose myself now.
So in July I started making significant changes in my life, and I'm gonna be sharing ALL about them here.
Cause in 2 months I've seen more change than I've seen in 2 years.
By being intentional. By staying focused. By not making excuses. By thinking about my HEALTH over what the number on the scale says.
I'll be sharing about vitamins, meals, lifestyle changes, workouts and so much more!
I tend to gain weight when I get more fit because I bulk up easily, but instead of being scared of my overall weight not dropping, I'm now focused on what that number actually means. What it says about my heart.
So who's with me?
Wanna get fit with me so we can watch our grandkids make memories one day?
GET ENOUGH SLEEP
You MUST make sleep a priority. Manage your day so that you can ensure you’re getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night. If that means you have to say no to a night out or putting something off until tomorrow, do that! Make it a routine and it will become a habit. Listen to these words: if you don’t sleep enough regularly…YOU WILL be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. One study looking at 3,000 adults over the age of 45 found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night. (Cleveland Clinic)
Here’s what I’ve been doing: We get the girls down at 7 every night, no exception. Blake and I relax (unless he’s studying) and we try to get some time together from 7-9 ish. During this time I clean up the house a bit (so it’s clean the next morning when I wake up), I prep anything I can for the next morning so I’m not overwhelmed getting the girls ready for school, and then we truly try to have some quality time over a tv show or movie. By 9:30 we are heading to our room to brush teeth and wash faces to get ready for bed. By 9:45 we are laying in bed and we’ll read a little or do some emails for those next 15 minutes. By 10 we go lights out, no exceptions. Our alarms go off at 5 or 6 the next morning so that ensures we get 7-8 hours of sleep every night!
Probably the hardest thing to do, right? Those who suffer from anxiety and feeling overwhelmed probably get stressed even reading the words “limit stressors.” So much easier said than done. But let me tell you this…if you create margin and boundaries in your life and eliminate items that truly don’t matter, stress will slip away.
Do what makes you happy. Have hobbies. Truly truly focus on the good and eliminate negative thoughts the best you can. And always always always seek help if you need it! Don’t be scared to ask for it. IT’S OKAY! If you needed that permission today, IT’S OKAY to ask for help.
We can’t do it all.
Here’s what I’ve been doing: I have started creating as much white space as possible in my planner. If it’s something I can say no to or move to another space where there’s more free time, I do that. I am consciously spreading out “stressful things” and ensuring they are surrounded by things that make me happy. For instance…I knew this blog post was gonna take me a longgggg time to do. I even had stress about posting the image you see on IG today! So I purposely scheduled nothing for this afternoon so I can have time to unwind and relax! I’ve also been listening to more uplifting music during car drives to truly lift my spirits when I’m in a funk. Both of these have truly worked!
MOVE MOVE MOVE
Here’s my favorite tip, and the one that I think has truly made the biggest difference in my life the last 2 months. I have been walking 1-2 miles EVERY SINGLE DAY.
The girls go to school 1/2 mile from our house. We walk there every single morning, and then I walk back. That’s 1 mile every morning. In the afternoons I walk to go pick them up and bring them home. That’s another 1 mile.
Now I realize that’s a luxury we have to be able to do that, and that obviously isn’t the case for everyone…but here’s the thing. I think when people hear they have to workout or move, they think they need some elaborate gym membership or some crazy at home gym.
I sat at 137 for the last year. zero movement from that number. Even with running a marathon, even with lifting weights, even with changing diets. Never saw that number move. BUT since I’ve started walking every day (and doing plyometric exercises (body weight exercises at home) I have dropped down to 130 and have stayed there for the last 2 months! 99% of you have the ability to walk. I know it. For many of you, running can be overwhelming and I get that.
SO JUST MOVE! Get up early and go for a walk with your kids. Walk after school. Walk over lunch breaks. Whatever you can, do it and I promise you’ll see change!!!
Here’s some other things I’ve been doing:
I always park my car far away at a store and stop looking for a close up spot. Not only does that save me time, but I get a little exercise every time.
I also always take the stairs! It’s amazing how implementing little tips like this can make a difference!
If you work in an office or somewhere that you sit a lot during the day, GET UP AND MOVEEEEEEE. Research shows sitting for too long is bad for your health.
Diets high in antioxidant-rich foods have been linked to a reduced risk of developing heart disease. As a result, current national guidelines on the prevention of cardiovascular disease recommend choosing foods rich in antioxidants versus taking supplements. (Cleveland Clinic)
Here’s what I’ve been doing: Guess what? Here’s your excuse to have some more chocolate! One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than any other fruits tested, which included blueberries and acai berries (Healthline). So instead of having candy on hand, I have a bar of very very dark chocolate on hand and if I get a sweet tooth I’ll take a tiny piece of it. Because it’s so rich it almost always does the trick! Additionally, for Vitamin C, instead of snacking on some candy, I’ve been reaching for citrus fruits, berries, pineapple, and mangos to satisfy my sweet tooth as well! We’ve kept nuts and nut butters on hand, added beans to salsa dips and chosen whole grains/wheat for Vitamin E. We’ve also increased our consumption of sweet potatoes which is another great source. The girls and I have oatmeal almost every morning too which is great source of selenium! We eat seafood (mostly salmon and tuna) as often as we can for this as well. Lastly, for beta carotene, we’ve been eating a lot more steamed broccoli and carrots! All of these are great additions to your pantry/fridge for antioxidants!
I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to have a more plant based diet, but the truth is being Korean so many of our dishes I grew up on contain meat. I do loveeeee meat and have a hard time cutting it out, but I’ve definitely been stepping away from eating red meats as much as we used to. So while I don’t think we can ever go fully plant based, we are eating less meat now.
CHECK BLOOD PRESSURE REGULARLY
Keeping your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides in check is important for good heart health. Learn the optimal levels for your sex and age group. Take steps to reach and maintain those levels. And remember to schedule regular check-ups with your doctor. (Healthline)
Here’s what I’ve been doing: We got an at home blood pressure cuff! This was the first thing my doctor told me to do so I didn’t have to go into her every week. When I see 3 consecutive high readings she asks me to come back in. This allows me to stay on top of my BP and to keep a log for her to see, but it’s also just a great tool to have at home for as we get older and need to monitor it more frequently! Here’s the one we got!!! It was only $29.95, gets great reviews and works amazing!
6. LIMIT SALT INTAKE
Research shows that salt is one of the leading drivers of rising healthcare costs in the United States due to the number of individuals having to be admitted for heart related conditions/diseases. Processed and restaurant-prepared foods tend to be especially high in salt. (Healthline)
Here’s what I’ve been doing: Aside from generally eating healthy at all times, I’ve been completely eliminating take out/fast foods during the week. Not only does that limit the amount of processed foods I eat, but it also keeps my weight down. If we are gonna eat out, I save that for Friday evening or the weekend as a “treat” for myself. I could never eliminate it completely, but this has been a hugeeee step in the right direction for someone who loves chinese takeout haha!! This means that we try to eat healthier meal options all throughout the week, which has been amazing for our whole family. Lastly, we’ve started using a salt substitute for our meals such as Mr. Dash or No Salt! This is imperative if you have high blood pressure or are at risk for heart failure diseases.
7. SMART SCALE
80% of people fail to maintain their health goals. Isn’t that crazy? But you can make it easier for yourself and paint a clearer picture of your health with an easy to use body smart scale that measures weight, body fat percentage, muscle and BMI all in one step. Having a smart scale allows you to set goals and track your results easily with the FitTrack Pro App (compatible with IOS and Android devices) with personalized and private data that is not shared with anyone. It’s a way of seeing what all the data behind the weight on your scale really means! Who cares what that number says! What it means is SO much more important!!!
Here’s what I’ve been doing: I am not scared of the scale anymore. Because I know the numbers that this scale provides me is showing me real time data for my health! I have my baseline information and I am SO excited to see how it improves over the next year and beyond. I love that I have the ability to monitor 17 health metrics from the comfort of my home and don’t have to go to the hospital to get them!
8. HAVE GOOD DENTAL HYGIENE
Who would’ve thought your dental health has a HUGE impact on your heart health?! I had no idea! But dental hygiene has always been such an important thing to me and so I’m happy to know it extends beyond my teeth and mouth. Dental health is a good indication of overall health, including your heart, because those who have periodontal (gum) disease often have the same risk factors for heart disease. Studies continue on this issue, but many have shown that bacteria in the mouth involved in the development of gum can move into the bloodstream and cause an elevation in C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels. These changes may in turn, increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. (Cleveland Clinic)
Here’s what I’ve been doing: I have flossers everywhereeeeeeee around my house, in my car, in my purse, in my diaper bag etc. I am constantly flossing and it is so important to get all up in your gums! My dentists tell me to “hug” my teeth, so that you are truly getting into the gum around each tooth versus just taking the floss up and down. Brush and floss at least twice a day!
9. TAKE SUPPLEMENTS
Garlic and Fish oil to be exact. Garlic is an herb sometimes used to protect against high blood pressure. Proponents suggest that consuming garlic as food or taking garlic extract in dietary supplement form can help treat high blood pressure or stop high blood pressure from setting in. Additionally, fish oil’s capacity to lower blood pressure is well documented. One study of 90 people on dialysis found that taking 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day significantly decreased both systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to a placebo. (Healthline)
Here’s what I’ve been doing: I’ve been taking a fish oil and garlic supplement every single day. I’ve only been doing it for a month now so likely won’t see any changes yet, but plan to do this routinely now as a preventative measure for heart health! Additionally, we’ve been increasing fish in our diet for omega-3 good fats and also been adding garlic to any meals we can! Two great ways to naturally add it more into our diets.
10. DRINK TEAS
Hibiscus tea to be exact!! One of the most impressive and well-known benefits of hibiscus tea is that it may lower blood pressure. Several studies have found that hibiscus tea may lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. (Healthline) But additionally, Hibiscus tea has been known to prevent hypertension, lower blood pressure, reduce blood sugar levels, keep your liver healthy, help with menstrual cramps, help with depression, aid digestion and help with weight management. (My Food Story) So it’s nice to know it has a multitude of health benefits!!! The American Heart Association says drinking one to three cups of green or black tea per day may help lower your risk of heart problems. For example, it’s linked to lower rates of angina and heart attacks. (Healthline)
Here’s what I’ve been doing: Whenever I went to Starbucks I’d generally get a coffee. BUT not anymore. I alternate between very berry hibiscus tea (also much less calories than a flavored latte) and coffees. It tastes amazing!!!! But additionally, I’ve been making it at home too! It tastes sooooo yummy on a cool day. Just a hint of fruity flavor mixed with a hint of traditional herbal tea and I truly feel it warming my heart up every time. I try to drink it 1-2 times a week!
Here’s the one I’ve been drinking and love! First off, look at those reviews!!! I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything with 5 stars and that many reviews! Second, it comes with 100 bags for $14.99! That’s amazing and these will last me sooooo long through the chill of winter too! Hooray!
11. STOP SMOKING
I don’t really need to go into much detail for this…but it was probably the leading factor to why my daddy died. He smoked his entire life (as did much of his generation) and I was sadly around the second hand smoke my entire life too. It truly more than likely has a huge impact on my health now as an adult, so all I can do now is try to overcome the damage done. Second hand smoke is soooo dangerous and after being around it for 18 years, and trying cigarettes myself for a couple years when I was younger, I know I have a lot of damage control to do. So here’s my encouragement to you if you do smoke:
If you aren’t gonna quit, please try to at least cut back. I personally know first hand the addiction, and I know how hard it is to stop. So at least try to cut back. More importantly, if you could care less about cutting back and quitting, think about the years it’s taking off of your life. Think about the damage it’s doing to those around you. Think about what it’s doing to your skin, your teeth, your lungs. It’s a slow killer. I hope I can help you in some way.
Smoking is one of the top controllable risk factors for heart disease. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, the American Heart Association (AHA), National Heart, Lung, and Blood InstituteTrusted Source (NHLBI), and Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source (CDC) all encourage you to quit. It can make a huge difference to not just your heart, but your overall health, too. (Healthline)
12. LIMIT ALCOHOL
According to the Mayo Clinic, drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels. Having more than three drinks in one sitting temporarily increases your blood pressure, but repeated binge drinking can lead to long-term increases. Moderation is key! Red wine in particular may offer benefits for your heart. That doesn’t mean you should guzzle it at every meal. The key is to only drink alcohol in moderation. (Healthline)
Here’s what I’ve been doing: I am by no means a heavy alochol drinker, but I do enjoy a glass of wine to unwind and a cocktail every now and then. Margaritas for taco Tuesday (and at any authentic Mexican restaurant) are a must and I enjoy a moscow mule for special occasions. But I have completely eliminated drinking any of these during the week. Blake and I only “treat” ourselves to a glass of wine on Fridays or Saturdays now (unless there’s a special event of course). This has not only helped with the waistline, but it’s also helped any small addiction there was to having wine at the end of the day. When we do choose to drink, we almost always go for a glass of red wine for the reported health benefits and research.
13. EAT HEALTHY
Slicing your saturated fat intake to no more than 7 percent of your daily calories can cut your risk of heart disease, advises the USDA. If you don’t normally read nutrition labels, considering starting today. Take stock of what you’re eating and avoid foods that are high in saturated fat. (Healthline)
Here’s what I’ve been doing: I try to do 99% of my shopping on the outside walls of grocery stores. In doing so, you generally eliminate the processed foods in the center of the store. Now of course, oatmeal, cereals, breads and pastas are typically in the center and we have those too, but the more you can stay to the outside walls of the store, the more you are shopping for fresh items! I also plan our meals for the week every Sunday. This allows me to not make any last minute decisions to eat something less healthy. I do a lot of pinterest searches for “healthy meals” and if I see something I like that isn’t too healthy, I try to adjust the recipe as necessary to make it a healthier version. I’ll continue to share healthy meal options on my instagram too! Another area I struggle is portion control and eating too fast. So I’ve been drinking water before meals to fill me up a bit before I start eating. I’ve been purposely grabbing smaller plates and bowls when I eat to ensure I only eat what’s on that smaller plate and I am consciously eating slower. Both of which have had huge impacts on my weight, I’m sure! Additionally, I stop eating when I get a hint of “being full”. I have a tendency to keep eating when I enjoy something because I just LOVE LOVE LOVE good food. But instead now, I slow down and typically the hunger wears off because I’m listening to my head telling me I’m full.
14. DRINK WATER
Oh, this is the Army girl in me. Whenever we complained about anything the answer was always to “DRINK MORE WATER and you’ll be alright!”
Ha! But the truth is, water truly is the cure for so so many ailments!
So instead of reaching straight for the medicine cabinet or something else to cure whatever it is you’re fighting, try downing a glass of water. It is truly one of the best ways to lose weight!
Here’s what I’ve been doing:
I am HORRIBLE at drinking water, yet when I’m doing it well, I always see significant changes in my overall health and appearance. My face stays clearer, my nails are stronger, my hair is shinier, my headaches are lessened, my waist is slimmer, everything! It’s truly the best medicine! So every time I even think about water, I immediately go chug a glass. That way I’m not having the idea weighing over my head. Cause I don’t do well with those “drink this big bottle of water” cups. I just don’t. I’ll do well for a week or two, but then it’s back to bad habits. This isn’t as hard for me. When I see water or think about it, I drink a glass! And I’ve been drinking more this way. Like right now! Go grab a cup! :)
I also alwayssss have a reusable cup in my car that ONLY water goes in so it stays clean. Every time I go to Starbucks or anywhere that serves water, I ask them to fill it up! Not only does this keep water on me at all times, but it also reduces plastic waste!
15. TRUST THE PROCESS AND BELIEVE IN CHANGE
BELIEVE YOU CAN MAKE A CHANGE IN YOUR LIFE AND WATCH IT HAPPEN.
I am tired of making up excuses.
I am tired of saying MY BODY CAN’T DO THAT.
I am tired of hearing “you will die!”
BELIEVE THAT CHANGE CAN HAPPEN, trust the process and be patient, know that it will take time and let’s get healthier together.
So…who’s with me? Leave a comment below, message me on Instagram on this post or pin this image to Pinterest so you can always reference back to it!