Olympian Dana Vollmer on heart health, motherhood and finding a balance
Olympic swimmer Dana Vollmer proves to us that truly nothing is impossible.
After being diagnosed with a heart condition at just 14, Dana has gone on to compete at three different Olympic games — and, not to mention, win gold. We caught up with the athlete this February, during American Heart Month, and chatted all things health, family and what advice she has for the first time Olympians competing this month in South Korea.
AOL: CVS Health recently held a national poll and “found that women in the United States are increasingly aware of the dangers of heart disease and recognize it as the number one killer of women, however few acknowledge their personal risk factors that contribute to heart disease.” What is the one thing that you want to tell women about heart disease?
DV: That it can happen to anybody. Even if you’re super healthy and eating well and are active, you do need to go and get your numbers checked and you do need to know what they are and to stay on top of regular health visits with your doctor.
I feel like people are always worried to go to the doctor because they’re going to find something. But you can go and find out these five numbers [total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and BMI] and make lifestyle changes that could really help the rest of your life — 80 percent of heart disease is preventable.
Staying active is a major part of staying healthy. What are some of your favorite ways to get moving with your husband and children outside of the pool?
We love going on hikes. We love being outside — we’re in our backyard all the time running around. We do laps around the park. I always say to moms, “don’t just go the park and let your kids run around, get in there with them!”
How do you manage your rigorous workout schedule with your life as full-time mom?
It’s hectic and busy is an understatement, but I love it. I almost now love the chaos more than how it used to be and I wake up in the mornings, because the boys are still asleep, and I get to go practice with the girls. I love the early mornings. Then to be surrounded by 24 young women who are so driven is a really cool environment, and I get to go get that competitiveness out of myself and go put it into the pool and then come home and be a mom the rest of the day. The schedule looks different than it used to, but we’re making it work and I think that’s another message I really want women to understand: it might look different than how other people do it, but we can make it work. Like we are so incredibly strong and creative and we can do things a different way and still reach the dreams we want to get to.
Do you have an advice for busy moms that still want to make sure that they and their families are eating healthy?
I really try to stock my house with easy things and one of my favorite tips is when you cook, make it so that you’re cooking for multiple meals. Instead of having to cook every meal, which gets tiring, when you’re cooking chicken, go ahead and cook three and put them in your fridge. And then when you are busy you have healthy things that you can grab.
What advice would you give to the first time Olympians that are competing in the winter games right now in Pyeongchang who might be dealing with nerves?
I still get nervous to this day. For me, it’s really telling myself that it’s the same pool, and “you’ve done it over and over.” These Olympians have practiced so hard and they’ve done the work and this is the time to embrace it and have fun with it. And now that I’ve had three Olympics, you just never know if you’re going to have that experience again, and I’ve always told myself the most I can ask of myself is to give 100% and if I do that then I have to be happy with the outcome. So just give it your all and try to just love the journey.
“As part of its continued support of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement, CVS Health has offered its commitment to women’s health by offering no cost ‘Know Your Numbers’ heart health screenings at MinuteClinic, the company’s retail medical clinic, every Wednesday in February. More info here.”
The Olympics’ Opening Ceremony kicks off the winter games on February 9th. See what Team USA will be wearing below!
Team USA Olympic Opening Ceremony Uniforms