A Healthy Heart is the Best Valentine!
When Valentine’s Day originated in England in the 1600’s, the heart symbol was the obvious choice for symbol to reflect the new holiday because as the circulatory center of your well being love is the center of well being. Every February 14, men and women around the world celebrate those closest to them with gifts commonly adorned with or designed in the form of traditional hearts…
But what about giving some love and care to the most important Valentine of all: Your Own Heart! Here are 7 ways to honor your heart and return the love to your heart that it gives you every day…
1) Eat Healthy!
Eating healthy always seems to be first on every list of what to do to improve your health in general, but how do we eat to make our heart healthy? Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals, also low in calories and rich in dietary fiber. Both contain substances found in plants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables may help you eat less high-fat foods, such as meat, cheese and snack foods. Whole grains are good sources of fiber and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. You can increase the amount of whole grains in a heart-healthy diet by making simple substitutions for refined grain products.
2) Control your Cholesterol!
The American Heart Association recommends less than 300 mg a day for healthy adults; less than 200 mg a day for adults with high levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol or those who are taking cholesterol-lowering medication. The best way to reduce saturated and trans fats in your diet is to limit the amount of solid fats — butter, margarine and shortening — you add to food when cooking and serving. When you do use fats, choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats, found in nuts and seeds, also are good choices for a heart-healthy diet. Moderation is essential. All types of fat are high in calories. Limiting unhealthy fats and cholesterol is an important step to reduce your blood cholesterol and lower your risk of coronary artery disease. The American Heart Association offers these guidelines for how much fat and cholesterol to include in a heart-healthy diet.
3) Manage your Blood Pressure! High Blood Pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. When your blood pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys. High blood pressure means the blood running through your arteries flows with too much force and puts pressure on your arteries, stretching them past their healthy limit and causing microscopic tears. Our body then kicks into injury-healing mode to repair these tears with scar tissue. But unfortunately, the scar tissue traps plaque and white blood cells which can form into blockages, blood clots, and hardened, weakened arteries. To manage your blood pressure you should eat a heart healthy diet, reduce sodium intake, get regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid tobacco smoke.
4) Reduce your Blood Sugar! Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose (or blood sugar) that our bodies use for energy. Your body makes a hormone called insulin that acts like a carrier to take your food energy into your cells. If your fasting blood sugar level is below 100, you are in the healthy range. If not, your results could indicate diabetes or pre-diabetes. Although diabetes is treatable and you can live a healthy life with this condition, even when glucose levels are under control it greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, most people with diabetes die from some form of heart or blood vessel disease. Begin your healthy diet by reducing consumption of simple sugars that are found in soda, candy and sugary desserts. Also take your medications regularly if prescribed and get your exercise!
5) Get Physical! The first step is to talk to your doctor and get recommendations of what would work best for you on a personal level based on your medical history. Moderate exercise can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses as well as improve your endurance, strength and flexibility. Here are four simple ways you can get physical and be on your way to a healthier heart: Brisk Walking: Whether you rack up the miles on a treadmill or hit the road, brisk walking is a natural way to improve your fitness. Running: If you are a beginner to running, start out with a brisk walk and add 1 to 2 minutes of running every 5 minutes of walking. As you get more fit, you can increase the minutes you run until you don’t need to walk in between. Swimming: Swimming laps or even participating in water fitness classes will not only raise your heart rate and improve your heart health, the water provides multi-directional resistance that will improve your muscular strength and tone. Swimming is a safe alternative if you have joint problems that walking or running can aggravate. Cycling: Cycling is a low-impact exercise that you can do solo in the gym, in a spin class, or outside on the road or trails.
6) Reduce Stress!
Reducing Stress seems easier said than done, but it can be achieved if you really want it – and you should! One simple mistake we make when stressing is dismissing it as temporary because of an overwhelming situation, but if you step back and look at life you’ll notice that more often than not you’re writing it off as temporary and several stressful situations pile up so the reality is that you have more stress than not in your life because you’re accepting it. Stop! When you are faced with stress, the ways you cope with it play a huge roll in either compounding it or truly eliminating it. Don’t look to escapes like drugs or alcohol, junk food, over sleeping, zoning out completely or taking it out on those around you. While some of these escapes may offer temporary relief, underneath the surface they’re just compounding the stress for a later explosion. Some of the best ways to deal with stress are to, try meditation, avoid people and situations that create stress in your life whenever possible, learn to say no to taking on too many tasks or finding yourself in the very situations you know will stress you, accept that you can’t control everything and quit trying to, get more exercise AND get more rest! Check out these great tips on reducing stress from Web MD.
7) Quit Smoking!!!! Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. Smoking damages your entire circulatory system, and increases your risk for coronary heart disease, hardened arteries, aneurysm and blood clots. Blood clots and hardened arteries increase your risks for heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease. Smoking can also reduce your good cholesterol (HDL) and your lung capacity, making it harder to get the physical activity you need for better health. Whatever it takes for you to stop smoking, it is worth it! Visit the American Heart Association’s Quit Smoking website for tools and resources.
Valentine's are great! Sharing your love with someone is a very special thing! But, please remember, the most important person in your life is Y-O-U! If you don't love yourself, you can't love someone else and if somebody loves you they'll surely want you to take care of yourself. So here's to a great Valentine's Day filled with self love and celebration because there's no time like the present to love yourself!
Happy Valentine's Day, Susan