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Laila AliEarlier this month I had the luxury of attending American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women luncheon in downtown Detroit. It was amazing to see more than 600 women decked out in red to show their support in the fight against women’s heart disease. This year’s keynote speaker was Laila Ali, a world-class athlete, fitness expert and author. Perhaps best known as the daughter of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, she invigorated attendees with her health tips, words of wisdom and real-life experiences.

Here are five pieces of Laila’s advice well worth sharing and passing along to other women.

Map Out a Health Plan

She said everyone should take the time to map out a master plan to achieve a healthier lifestyle. This includes re-evaluating the foods you buy, time management habits, exercise habits, and your level of self-motivation.

“I had 30 pounds to lose when I started fighting, and it didn’t come off easy,” Laila recalled. “My life became working out. But increasing my physical activity greatly improved my sleep, diet, confidence and my general quality of life.”

She reminded attendees that the little changes matter, too, such as drinking more water and choosing veggies over unhealthy foods.

“Find time to get those workouts in,” she said. “Early in the morning is always a good time before you get busy with your day. Your health plan will give you more energy, reduce stress and help you to be a healthier version of you.”

Coming up with a realistic strategy and committing to it can make all of the difference.

Improve the Quality of Your Diet

Laila challenged attendees to do more research on the nutritional value of organic foods. She urged everyone to eat organic and to eat more servings of fruits and vegetables.

“Learning about organic foods inspired my passion for more health and fitness,” Laila explained. “I had to be open-minded before I could change my thoughts about food and my habits.”

Laila, who is the co-host of FYI Network’s new cooking competition show, “Late Nite Chef Fight,” credits her nutritionist for teaching her the proper way to eat and prepare food for her family.

“I realize it may cost a little more to feed your family with organic foods, but it’s well work it,” she said, referring to the increase in nutrients in organic food and the reduced amount of pesticides associated with them. “Nutrition is eating clean food, food from the earth.”

The level of antioxidants in organic food helps prevent heart disease, which disproportionately affects African-American women. According to the American Heart Association, nearly 50,000 die every year from heart disease, which causes approximately one in three women’s deaths every year.

“We are all impacted by heart disease,” she said, sharing that her grandmother has high blood pressure. “We all have someone in our family or someone we know who has dealt with heart disease. But many of them don’t know these statistics.”

Let Go of Something

Laila asked attendees to take a step back to reassess their health. There is always something (or someone) worth letting go of in order to improve the quality of your life. She acknowledged it likely will be a difficult step, but she insisted it’s a necessary one.

“The truth is there’s always someone in our lives trying to rob us of our time,” Laila said. “So we give our time to everyone and then we feel as if there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done!”

She suggested letting go of bad habits, such as fatty foods or the people holding you back from living a healthier life. These all steal our sleep time, create temptations for us and keep us from getting work done.

“Like everyone else, I had to let go of some junk foods that I love,” she said. “We need to cut our salt and sugar intake and be a positive example for our families.”

Stop Worrying So Much

“We also spend a lot of time worrying about what other people think of us when it doesn’t matter,” said the 37-year-old retired boxing champ. She said women seem to worry way too much about their kids, their jobs and everything in between.

“You can’t change the people around you, and you can’t feel responsible for everyone else,” she explained. “You have to stop worrying! It won’t change or improve anything!”

Chronic worrying has health implications, she said, including high blood pressure, anxiety, stress and even depression. It can also drain your energy and encourage you to snack on the wrong foods.

“All you can do is make sure that your immediate family is taken care of,” Laila said. “It really comes down to you taking better care of yourself. And nothing feels better than that, I promise you!”

Start Right Now

Laila suggested that many women let their busy lifestyles spin out of control, which causes unhealthy daily choices. She told attendees that there’s no better time than now to take control of their lives. The best place to start is by making better choices.

“Women, in particular, spend all of their time caring for their families and everyone else first, and putting themselves last,” Laila said. “You have to put yourself first and realize that you can’t do it all [for everybody]!”

She urged attendees to make today the day to stop making excuses about why they don’t get more exercise and eat healthier.

“I’m guilty, too, but I give myself cheat days where I can eat whatever I want,” she explained. “But the difference is, I know that I have to hit the gym hard multiple times a week. I don’t train like I used to, but I’m serious when I’m at the gym.”

Laila, who has a 6-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter, suggested identifying the areas where you need to make sacrifices in order to be healthier.

“Right now, I’m juggling three shows, I’m writing a book, I’m running my business, managing my brand and trying to take care of my family too,” she explained. “But I know I can’t put off my health. I make it a priority.”

Laila shared very practical ways women can improve their health, and her real-life examples and down-to-earth nature kept attendees engaged. We all were eager to learn more of her health tips, like her love for pink Himalayan sea salt.

Please take a moment to share your heart-healthy tips below so others can pass them on.

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