cover of Strong Women, Strong Hearts by Miriam Nelson and Alice Lichtenstein

Happy Valentine’s Day! I chose this book for today as a Valentine’s gift to me and all the women who read my blog. Let’s love our hearts!

Book: Strong Women, Strong Hearts: Proven Strategies Tailored Specifically for Women by Miriam E. Nelson and Alice H. Lichtenstein
Genre: Health
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication date: 2005
Pages: 255

Source: Library

Summary: Strong Women, Strong Hearts is divided into three parts. The first section covers the current and emerging research on heart disease, particularly as it applies to women.

The meat of the book is in the second part: The Strong Women, Strong Hearts Program. It starts with diet, including (after all the appropriate explanation) a kind of mix and match eating plan that manages to be both simple and flexible. The exercise chapter includes a tool I hadn’t seen before–the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) which helps you decide if you should consult with a doctor before starting an exercise regime. The next chapter has “Ten Tough Strategies for Weight Loss –That Work!” The final piece of the program is about mental and emotional health — learning to relax and address stress and depression.

The final part is about the medications and procedures that women with heart problems may need, with a chapter about how to talk to yourself, your friends, your doctor, and emergency room personnel since too many heart problems in women aren’t recognized due to atypical symptoms.

Thoughts: The first note that I took from this book was that heart disease kills more than ten times more women in the US each year than breast cancer does. Ten times! Did you know that heart disease kills more women than men each year? That’s been true every year since 1984. Those statistics makes Strong Women, Strong Hearts an important book for all women, I think!

There’s a risk test in the beginning part of the book so you can assess how you’re doing — you need a recent blood test to have all the information. I’m currently at a less than 1% risk of a heart attack in the next 10 years. Yay! That’s a direct result of following many of the tenets outlined in the Program section of this book, practices and behaviors that brought my blood pressure low enough that I no longer need medication.

Some of the newer nutrition research described in this book shows that fat is no longer quite the enemy that we once thought. In particular, the guildelines suggest not going below 20% of calories from fat because that tends to increase triglycerides and lower the good cholesterol. The research indicates that one should pay more attention to the kinds of fats in the diet and not be quite so stringent as we once thought in the amounts.

I was startled by the statistics about exercise, or lack thereof:

Only 27 percent of Americans get enough exercise to benefit them, and 38 percent of American women are not active at all. p. 57

Given that statistic, it makes sense that the first step in the exercise program in this book is Decrease Sedentary Living. The exercise chapter has great tips for everyone no matter what level of fitness. I had been struggling with the lunges in my Slim in 6 workouts. They made my knees hurt. Working through the two-page spread on the lunge in this book, I improved them — largely by accepting that using a chair helped my form even though I was in no danger of losing my balance.

I skimmed most of the last part since I’m not currently in need of medication or medical procedures, but I’m very glad to know that information is there should I need it. I did not skim the section about how to be an advocate for myself. I’m trying to etch this passage somewhere in my brain:

In the unlikely event that you end up going to the emergency room for heart-related symptoms, there are a number of things you need to know so that you can advocate for yourself most effectively. One is not to delay. We can’t stress this enough. If you think, for instance, that there’s even a remote chance you are having a heart attack or stroke, don’t wait to see whether it passes. And don’t tell yourself it’s nothing. Many women make the dangerous mistake of minimizing what they’re going through. This could be a matter of life and death. Delaying can also increase the amount of permanent damage that occurs. Don’t minimize. Get someone to drive you to the hospital–immediately. If no one’s available, call 911. pp. 214, 215

I’m also keeping in mind the story in the sidebar on the same stage. An active woman was diagnosed with a heart murmur and told by a young resident that she would need to limit her activities. Fortunately, she mentioned that to the cardiologist a few minutes later who said there was no need.

If she hadn’t spoken up and gotten her “second opinion,” she would have walked around on tiptoes–unnecessarily–and suffered a decline in her heart health from lack of activity. p. 215

Appeal: This is going to appeal most to women who have some reason to worry about their risk of heart disease (my father died of a sudden heart attack at age 63, so I’m firmly in that camp). Really, though, given the statistics about women and heart disease, it’s a book for every woman. I really liked the approach to diet and fitness in this book and think they would benefit any one making changes in these areas.

Checkpoint logoSpeaking of exercise…Tuesday is Checkpoint day, the day to report how our exercise is going. I’m finding this a wonderful and fun way to be accountable to my goals. My February goal is 1300 minutes of exercise and I am currently at 525 minutes, right about where I need to be!

Visit the Checkpoint linky at Bookwork with a View to see how everyone is doing: CHECKpoint! Feb 14. And join us!


Signature of Joy Weese Moll


Book Review: Strong Women, Strong Hearts by Miriam Nelson and Alice Lichtenstein — 5 Comments

  1. Joy, are you flexible enough to place your foot on a stool/ bench/ stair about knee height? You can then keep your foot stable and bend through the knee (working glutes, quads, adductors, etc).

    I have a hard time with lunges, too, because I have an old injury (left) and then my right one gets tweaked sometimes (probably compensating for the left!). “Oh, my good knee hurts.” It’s crazy!

    I don’t have any medical training but I’ve had LOADS of injuries and physical therapy, so I wanted to pass that idea along to you cos hurt joints are BAD news!

    Heart disease is on both sides of my family. Even as a 20 year old vegetarian (who weighed 20lb less), I had high bad cholesterol and low good cholesterol. My blood panels last December were the best of my life (and I’m still crowing about it, whether I drop dead tomorrow or not!) and I credit upping my GOOD fats 🙂

  2. It’s amazing how many people don’t think to exercise (or eat well). Shocking!

    For someone who has worked out her entire life.. it baffles me.

    Checkpoint: You are on track! I should start looking at how long I’m working out. On days when I run 3 miles, I can be done in about 30 minues. I need to do more those days. Seeing your goals has enlightened me. Thanks!

    Have a great week!

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