Connectedness: Women and their Daughters Heart Health

Since 1963, February has been celebrated as American Heart Month. In 2004, the American Heart Association expanded this initiative with their Go Red for Women campaign to raise awareness of the importance of heart health for women. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States with a statistical report of approximately 1 in every 5 female deaths in 2017 attributed to heart disease.

In 2004, I joined colleagues and friends at one of the inaugural American Heart Association ‘Go Red for Women’ luncheon events in Westchester, NY. Several young women shared their poignant, personal experiences of unanticipated heart disease. Each speaker’s story revealed the ‘silent’ and devastating effects of their cardiac event on themselves and their families. The women, who spoke, had recovered and were eager to share their experiences to change the potentially devastating effects of early onset cardiac events in women. Their stories resonated with me both personally and professionally. I have a strong family history of women dying at young ages from cardiac disease; additionally, I believed that many of my pediatric patients were susceptible to cardiac disease based on one or more factors including their family history, parental life-style choices during the early infant and child-rearing years, and/or adolescents who disregard their personal health, most likely related to a lack of knowledge of heart-healthy behaviors.

Personally, I began my own campaign to maintain heart health through healthy dietary habits, incorporating a variety of exercise activities into my weekly schedule, and taking charge of my own statistics, inclusive of weight, BMI, BP, cholesterol levels, and time, that is – time for relaxation and ‘stress-free’ moments. In my opinion, every woman needs to take charge of her personal cardiac health!

Professionally, I view my patient’s health through a cardiac-lens. And yes, I am a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) providing primary care services for infants, children, adolescents, and young adults, as the pediatric population is where heart health begins – in utero and continues throughout the early years as mothers nurture and raise their daughters. With professional healthcare guidance, mothers can build the foundation for heart healthy behaviors for their daughters (and sons too!). There is a connectedness between mothers and daughters: as Jordan et al. (1991) research revealed, mothers and daughters grow in connection to each other. While these researchers focused on emotional connections and emotional growth, heart health is indeed a connection as well – one that mothers can foster from the moment of conception and throughout the child-rearing years. I must also recognize mothers whose children are born with congenital heart disease (CHD) – we know it is the mothers love, strength and commitment to her child and personal sacrifices that enables children with CHD – both girls and boys – to achieve their personal goals for heart health.

For each pediatric/adolescent patient, I analyze family history, review nutritional and life-style behaviors, and use motivational interviewing to enable mothers to determine how they can be empowered and likewise empower their daughters to be heart healthy. I encourage all NPs to do the same for each of their female patients. There is a strong connection between PNPs and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners (WHNP) as collectively, we provide healthcare to women across the life-span. Our collective NP model should be: It is never too late to begin a life-style that promotes a healthy heart!

Celebrate heart health in February with the American Heart Association’s Heart Health Month and Go Red for Women activities, but also extend these initiatives throughout the year, personally and professionally! And give yourself and your children a hug today, in person or digitally!

References

American Heart Association. Wear Red Day kicks off American heart month [press release]. heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@mwa/documents/downloadable/ucm_435416.pdf

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Women and heart disease. January 31, 2020. cdc.gov/heartdisease/women.html

Jordan JV, Kaplan AG, Miller JB, Stiver IP, Surrey JL. Women’s Growth in Connection: Writings from the Stone Center. New York: The Guilford Press; 1991.

 

Donna Hallas PhD, PPCNP-BC, CPNP, PMHS, FAANP, FAAN is a certified as a pediatric nurse practitioner and pediatric primary care mental health specialist. She is a Clinical Professor and Director of the PNP program at New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing. She has presented nationally and internationally on numerous research and clinical topics with the overall goal of improving health care outcomes for infants, children, adolescents and young adults. 

Her first book, Behavioral pediatric healthcare: A growth and developmental approach to intercepting abnormal behaviors, earned the prestigious American Journal of Nursing 2018 Book of the Year Award earning first place for Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing and third place for Child Health.

Dr. Hallas is a digital editor for Contemporary Pediatrics and writes a monthly commentary which focuses on applying information in one or more journal articles to pediatric clinical practice. Here is a link to the PNP corner www.contemporarypediatrics.com/pnp-corner.

Dr. Hallas’ most recent research focuses on vaccine hesitancy. She and colleagues designed a web-based intervention study using the concepts of informed decision making and the influence of social media. The study was conducted using two populations: pregnant women  and mothers of newborns and young infants to determine the effectiveness of population-specific web-based interventions to reduce the incidence of vaccine hesitancy (Hallas, Altman, & Fletcher, 2018). The study was statistically significant for prenatal women and approached statistical significance for mothers of newborns and young infants. 

Please click on this link for a brief discussion by Dr. Hallas on vaccine hesitancy and the most recent measles outbreak: https://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2019/october/one-question–why-do-some-parents-hesitate-to-vaccinate-their-ch.html.

References

Hallas, D. (Ed.) (2019). Behavioral pediatric healthcare: A growth and developmental approach to intercepting abnormal behaviors. New York: Springer.

Hallas, D., Altman, S., & Fletcher, J.  (2018). Reducing vaccine hesitancy in prenatal women: Results of a web-based intervention study. Presented as a poster at the Center for DiseaseControl National Immunization Conference. Washington, D.C.

 

Editor’s Note –The views expressed in the nurse influencer posts are those of the contributing authors. NPWH does not sanction the content of these posts.

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