This guest blog post is by Michelle Emebo, a Real Woman spokesperson for the AHA’s Go Red for Women movement.
At a scheduled doctor’s appointment in my third trimester of pregnancy, my blood pressure was much higher than usual. My doctor asked me to take my blood pressure every day and call the office if the reading got any higher. At my follow-up appointment the next week, my blood pressure was still high. I knew it could lead to more serious complications not only for me but for my unborn daughter.
On the day I gave birth to my daughter, my blood pressure was the highest it had been throughout my pregnancy. My doctor assured me it would return to normal after giving birth, but it didn’t. A few months later, she put me on medication to help control it. But even on medication, my blood pressure remained moderately high.
A year and half after my daughter was born, I decided to take full and total control of my health. My top priority was getting my blood pressure back to normal through diet and exercise. And I wanted to lose the excess weight I’d gained during pregnancy.
Two years later, I have lost 75 pounds by really dialing in my nutrition and doing targeted exercise programs including HIIT (high intensity interval training) and strength training. With my doctor’s approval, I am off blood pressure medication and actively controlling my blood pressure through diet and exercise alone.
How did I do it?
As I focused on improving my diet, my goal was to significantly reduce my daily calories as well as the amounts of sugar, sodium and fat I consumed. Here are some tips that helped me change my eating pattern:
Know you have the power to take control of your health. Getting started is the hardest part, but it will get easier.
Develop a meal plan. Determine how many calories you want to consume and try to stick to this plan most of the week. For most people, 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day is a good range.
Read nutrition labels. Know how much sugar, sodium and fat is in what you’re eating and drinking.
Plan when you eat instead of eating whenever you’re hungry. It helped me to be more consistent and schedule the times of day I would eat. This way I was providing food to my body proactively instead of reactively.
Cook your own food — this gives you the most control over what goes in it.
Use the “fist” rule to keep portion sizes healthy. For example, I try to keep my protein and carb servings to about the size of my fist.
Double up on the green vegetables. Adding a side of greens to meals can help you feel full without adding too many more calories.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. A year into my health journey, I met with a trainer to hone my nutrition and strength training plans. You can also meet with your health care provider or a registered dietitian.
Women like me across the globe have joined the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement to take a stand against heart disease. Many cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure are preventable with lifestyle changes including diet and exercise.
What can you do today to take control of your health?
Struggling to control her blood pressure and weight after the birth of her daughter, Michelle Emebo got serious about her heart health. Just a few years later, she’s in the best shape of her life and no longer requires medication to control her blood pressure.