Does Philoptochos Promote Heart Health?

Go Red for Women is the American Heart Association’s national call to increase awareness and help prevent heart disease, the number one killer of American women.

The National Philoptochos Society promotes the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign to increase awareness.  The American Heart Association has designated Friday, February 7, 2014 as National Wear Red Day. In support of this program, we are designating Sunday, February 9 as Go Red Sunday and are asking our Philoptochos sisters across the country to join the movement and wear red when attending Church services.  Share information with your Philoptochos sisters, your parish community and all the women you know and love in regards to heart health and heart disease prevention.

With this in mind we have invited one of our beloved regular contributors to Philanthropy by Philoptochos to write about heart health. Denise Millstine, MD not only gives us some wonderful tips in this post on how to keep our hearts healthy but also explains how by being members of Philoptochos we are already giving our hearts a healthy boost.

Have you ever found yourself trying to be healthy only to learn what you are doing is “wrong”? Perhaps you were eating eggs in the morning, only to be told they are causing your cholesterol to be high. Maybe you were running regularly then read it may cause strain on your heart?

The health of our cardiovascular system is dependent upon many variables, some of which are modifiable by our actions, lifestyle, and choices. Still, the advice can be complicated and confusing – not to mention inconsistent and always changing.

It is probably simpler than it seems. Four pillars of heart health have been described by world-renowned researcher and health expert Dr. Dean Ornish, and they are, or easily could be, aligned with our Philoptochos activities and mission.

The pillars are:
    1.    Nutrition
    2.    Fitness
    3.    Stress Management
    4.    Love & Support
(, accessed 1/12/14)

1. Nutrition

What should we eat? Food that we recognize as food – and that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers would recognize as well! If we are eating from a package, there is a good chance our “food” does not meet this criteria. One of the easiest ways to eat real food is to stay on the perimeter of your supermarket – venturing into those inner aisles only on rare occasions.

As Philoptochos, we can encourage this in our communities and families by creating traditional dishes. Next time you serve roast pork, salad, green beans, and rice or homemade bread, pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

2. Fitness 

We all need to move. The standard recommendation is 2 ½ hours per week of moderate exercise. This can be measured by whether or not you can easily hold a conversation during the exertion.

Often, we put the needs of others first and we don’t take the time to prioritize exercise for ourselves. Maybe you cringe at the thought of “hitting the gym” or were injured last time you tried to embrace a fitness program.

If you can, do the exercise with intention and intensity. If you can’t, buy a pedometer to wear as you serve your family, community, and church. You just might find that tracking your steps and setting a goal, probably around 10,000 per day, will encourage more movement incorporated into your daily life.

3. Stress Management

Stress is necessary. A world without stress is not a productive one. Stress can also cause disease. Too much stress contributes to anxiety and insomnia. Did you know it also weakens your immune system and makes you more susceptible to infection, such as colds? Stress, in excess, contributes to chronic diseases as well and must be kept in check.

A Philoptochos woman has a lot to balance – family, career, volunteering, planning, serving, just to name a few. I know each of you has found yourself up late at night baking, putting final details in place for an event or responding to emails. There are many strategies for managing stress, and it is important to choose one that speaks to you. Consider exercise, meditation, music, and prayer. Pausing to acknowledge the present moment and expressing gratitude to God is always a great idea, and it can serve your health as well!

4. Love & Support

We don’t often remember the power of community in maintaining our health or reversing heart disease. Dr. Ornish has found this “connectedness” to be an integral part of treating and reversing heart disease.

You invite. You welcome. You link yourself to other women in Philoptochos and strengthen those bonds with time, trust, and shared experiences. Next time you find yourself preparing a room for an event or sitting around a table in planning, let the love you feel for the women around you fill your heart – and make you healthy at the same time!

Maybe I should start writing this prescription to my patients who are concerned about heart disease: “Join Philoptochos!”
-Denise Millstine, MD