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Women in Business

Dr. Jessica Birchem on the Importance of Self-Care

Interventional Cardiologist for Mercy, Dr. Jessica Birchem, shares her tips for self-care and heart health.

by Rae Swan Snobl

Jul 13 2022 at 8 a.m.

Dr. Jessica Birchem
Photo courtesy Mercy HospitalDr. Jessica Birchem DO, FACC, is an Interventional Cardiologist for Mercy

Biz 417: Why is self-care so important for women?
Dr. Jessica Birchem: The act of self-care is never selfish, but rather vital to our overall health and well-being. For women, it can be more difficult to realize that it is not selfish, as we can wear many hats such as being a mother, wife, professional and friend.  We strive to be the best at all of these and can forget that we need to be a friend to ourselves and make self-care a priority. Many times, women are so busy looking after other family members, they neglect their own care and may miss subtle warning signs that tell our bodies to slow down.

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Biz 417: How is self-care related to heart health?
J.B.: Some factors like good nutrition, not smoking, moving our bodies with cardio and weights, good sleep hygiene, and meditation can reduce cardiovascular risk. Some of the warning signs for heart disease in women are different from men, particularly fatigue, nausea/vomiting, exertional shortness of breath, back or jaw pain. Paying attention to risk factors and recognizing the start of symptoms or change in symptoms is self-care. Identifying and reporting this in yourself or your friend, can potentially be life saving.

Biz 417: What are some tips you have for women to work in time for themselves and their heart health?
J.B.: It starts with small changes, the 1% rule. Swap out fresh veggies or fruit instead of processed foods as snacks. Get moving by going for a walk, swim or yoga. The American College of Cardiology recommends 30 minutes most days of the week of exercise for preventative cardiovascular health. Meditate and take a brain break. Take time for yourself, know your numbers blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Blood Sugar, hs CRP and BMI (Body Mass Index) to lower your risk for cardiovascular disease.