Irene Reed is not only to be celebrated as a super mom and grandmother this Mother's Day, but as a champion of heart-healthy living.
Maria Reed nominated her 78-year-old mother (from Surrey, B.C.) in this year's Model of Health contest, run in conjunction with the Heart and Stroke Foundation's female-focused The Heart Truth campaign. The Model of Health contest highlights women who exemplify living well into their senior years as a result of making heart healthy choices throughout their lives. The program drew hundreds of nominations from across Canada – and the three winners are:
• Margaret Abbott-Brown, 75, from Grand Prairie, Alberta
• Claire MacDonnell, 83, from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia
• Gladys Wenger, 91, from Barrie, Ontario
Irene was nominated by her daughter for “creating an amazing legacy of motivation, health and wellness”.
“She's impacted me and my two daughters by being a strong role model,” says Maria. “We discuss heart healthy living as a family. It has become ingrained in the next generation with my daughters.”
Twelve years ago, Irene's husband Bud suffered a severe heart attack and was diagnosed with atherosclerosis. Two years later, Maria's brother died of a heart attack at age 38. “After those two life-changing events, Irene completely kicked up the family's healthy lifestyle another notch and really became the family's health cheerleader,” says Maria.
Irene became a quick student of all heart-smart literature, with a particular emphasis on diet. She focused on cooking with fresh fruit and vegetables, reducing beef intake, and avoiding bad fats and processed foods. Irene and her husband maintained a regular exercise regimen. Irene, an avid gardener, maintains a twice-weekly weightlifting program she does at home, and tries to walk up to three times a week with her husband.
Five years after her husband's heart attack, doctors were surprised to see no more plaque build-up in Bud's arteries. Irene gives a lot of credit to good nutrition for reversing her husband's heart disease. Maria, however, gives all the credit to her mom.
“My mother is truly the definition of a heart angel,” says Maria. “The greatest part is that all of this knowledge and leading by example has affected both my lifestyle and my children's and will most definitely continue to filter down through the generations.”
Maria says her career move into the health-field was influenced by her mother. Her 20-year-old daughter is also planning to start a career in health, owing to her grandmother.
Irene says she feels 20 years younger than her age. Maria says her mom exudes a positive attitude.
“A big part of it is her personality and her disposition. My mom has always been the model for a healthy happy mind unaffected by stress,” says Maria “She always finds a reason to make the glass half full. She's an incredible woman.”
For women to make health last and live full, engaged lives, Irene says a healthy active mind is as important as a healthy body.
“You need to be passionately interested in something and be a keen learner to keep yourself active. I'm very interested in computerized embroidery and desktop publishing so I'm always learning something new,” she says. “It's also very important to be happy. And the only person that can make you happy is yourself.”
Heart disease and stroke is a leading cause of death for women in Canada, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Nine in 10 Canadian women have at least one significant risk factor. By making healthy lifestyle choices, women can reduce their risks by as much as 80 per cent.
Women can take action now to make health last with three easy steps:
1) Assess their risk for heart disease and stroke.
2) Talk to their doctor about their risk.
3) Commit to one small lifestyle change every day to see big gains in heart health.
Encourage your mother to review tips on increasing physical activity, eating a healthy diet, becoming and remaining smoke-free and managing stress. Comprehensive resources are available at thehearttruth.ca.
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