Be Heart Smart
Take stock of your heart during National Heart Month in February and, if needed, make Heart Smart lifestyle changes to keep your heart healthy and improve your quality of life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, causing one in five deaths each year. Despite that grim statistic, you can live a heart healthy life when you commit to a few daily goals.
If you need encouragement to stick to these goals, ask your partner or a friend who also needs to get Heart Smart to join you on your heart healthy journey. Having a partner will help keep you motivated; after all, it’s easier to resist that second slice of pie or bundle up for your daily walk if you know your heart healthy partner is making the same choice.
Check out these Heart Smart tips:
Move It: Walking, hiking, exercise classes, yoga, tai chi, dancing, climbing stairs and swimming are all good for your heart and overall fitness. Health experts recommend engaging in physical activity 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If you can’t commit to a 30-minute block of time, aim for several smaller increments of exercise throughout the day. Ten minutes of physical activity here and there throughout the day adds up.
Watch Your Weight: Carrying around extra pounds is hard on your heart, and increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Your health care practitioner can help you determine your ideal weight. Then commit to choosing heart healthy foods and engage in regular exercise to help you achieve your goal.
Eat Better: Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, and avoid processed and fatty foods, sugary foods and foods high in salt. Limit treats like cake and pie to special occasions. Check out the Mediterranean diet or the DASH plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) for recipes and other healthy eating tips.
Manage Your Stress: Life is stressful, and as these past few years has shown, it can be very stressful. Instead of coping with stress by smoking, overeating or drinking, turn to more healthy activities like meditation, yoga, relaxation therapy, joining a stress management program, being physically active, or talking with family, friends or your pastor. If you can’t handle stress on your own, don’t hesitate to seek help from your doctor or a mental health care provider, as stress can contribute to high blood pressure and other heart issues.
- Ditch the Cigarettes: Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death, so giving up smoking should be high on your list of heart healthy goals. Set a quit date and enlist the support of family and friends to help you kick the habit.
- Track Your Health: Take your medications and follow your health care provider’s advice to manage conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol. Some individuals find it helpful to keep a log of their progress, noting things like how much they exercise, the activities they are enjoying to help manage stress, and their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers.
National Heart Month can help you kick off a year of heart healthy habits, so that when February 2024 rolls around you will be able pat yourself on the back confident that the goals you set to be Heart Smart have paid off and you are now heart healthier than you were a year ago.
Shannon Lynch is the Executive Director of The Morrison Communities, which includes the Morrison Skilled Nursing Facility, Sartwell Place Assisted Living, Morrison Rehabilitation, and Summit by Morrison, a senior living community offering independent living, assisted living, memory care and respite care.