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These Numbers Matter More Than Any Running PR

Running can make us feel invincible. Running and eating healthy foods is the shield we wear to protect ourselves from disease, depression and weight gain. But is running and eating healthy enough to truly protect ourselves? Or is there something else we should be doing?

Personally, I’m guilty of thinking I’m healthy without even having visited my doctor for a check-up. My resting heart rate is below 50. My weight is within a healthy range. I run an appropriate amount of mileage without overdoing it. I eat a vegetarian diet. I lift weights to avoid osteoporosis. Doesn’t this mean I’m immune to heart disease?

According to WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, the leading cause of death in women is heart disease. At a recent heart health panel discussion hosted by Burlington Stores and WomenHeart, the message delivered was that no matter how healthy you appear on the outside, it doesn’t mean your insides are healthy. You can be young, thin and healthy and still have heart disease.

The panel discussion included Wendy Williams, Mayo Clinic’s Sharonne N. Hayes M.D. and WomenHeart Champions—heart disease survivors who are trained community educators.

Related: 5 Important Health Tips For Women

The biggest message from the panel about what we need to do no matter how healthy and active we are even as runners was three-fold:

1) A cardiac event isn’t predictable, but risk factors are. Therefore, know your numbers (cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and weight) no matter what your age or activity levels are. Heart Disease isn’t something only older women get. The WomenHeart Champions on the panel were all under 40 and seemingly healthy when diagnosed with heart disease. Two were fitness instructors.

2) Listen to your body and know the signs of a heart attack so that you can recognize them in others or if they are happening to you. 80% of people diagnosed with a heart disease due to a cardiac event had symptoms up to one month before the cardiac event occurred.

3) Adequate funding for studying heart disease in women is needed. Men and women are not the same and the cause and effects of heart disease in men and women are not the same either. For years men and women were treated the same when diagnosed with heart disease.

Throughout the month of February, Burlington Stores, WomenHeart and Wendy Williams will be sharing fun and easy heart health tips using the the hashtag #HealthyHeartSelfie. Burlington will donate $1 for every photo posted with #HealthyHeartSelfie to social media through the end of February.

Related: 7 Tips For Running With A Heart Defect

Race Pace Jess

Jess Underhill fell in love with running during a rough patch in life, a time period most people just refer to as middle school. Twenty-six years later that first runner's high she experienced continues to shape nearly every aspect of her life, including her career. She has a Master's Degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion, is graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is a UESCA Certified Run Coach. Most recently Jess launched Race Pace Run Club, a free virtual run club that welcomes runners of all levels from coast to coast and also meets in-person in NYC. She is an ambassador for Sparkly Soul Headbands