We’ve turned the page on the calendar —the chocolate roses, truffles, heart-shaped foods and all that jazz are behind us. I’m not trying to dismiss February 14 as insignificant, but I do want to remind you that the heart is bigger than one day.
I want you to give equal attention to keeping your heart healthy and adopting a lifestyle that will help keep it that way. My goal is to motivate you to go beyond slipping into something red and looking good on the outside, to considering what you need to do to have a strong healthy heart inside.
EXERCISE Include physical activity as part of your regular schedule. Some folks may have occupations that keep them walking and moving while others are in jobs that are sedentary, keeping them tethered to a desk all day. In either case folks need to exercise. If your job requires movement throughout the workday, include 30 minutes of physical activity, to aid in reducing stress. For those of you that are bound to a desk, see if your employer will invest in a few walking workstations. It is a win-win, you get needed exercise, and your employer will benefit from healthier employees.
Everyone should include 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week to get their heart rate up. If you are not active now, ease into an exercise program after checking with your health care provider to make sure there is no reason to restrict physical activity.
CHOOSE A HEALTHIER DIET Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet; choose an assortment of colorful items. Sure, we all have our favorite foods but mix it up and try something that is new to you. For example, if you just love tomatoes—choose yellow or purple hues in place of the traditional red sometimes. According to the United Stated Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Americans consume about 1.5 cups of fruits and vegetables; that is not enough. The national nutrition guidelines recommend 2 to 3 cups a day. Include more whole grain and high fiber foods in your daily diet. Folks don’t eat enough fiber and most need to eat more. By increasing produce in your diet, you can increase fiber intake. Eat whole grain breads, more beans, legumes, brown rice, quinoa and nuts.
Choose lean red meats, poultry and fish. Keep an eye on portion size, which should be approximately 4 ounces. As for dessert, which too many of us want to eat first, choose items that are not overflowing with sugar. Look to fruit or Greek-style yogurt that you can enhance with berries, and a few nuts. If you want a prepared dessert, consider cutting the portion in half and saving a portion for another day.
As for beverages, make sure you drink plenty of water, avoid high-sugar drinks and consume alcoholic drinks in moderation. Recommended amounts of alcohol are one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.
BAN SMOKING This includes cigarettes, cigars, electronic cigarettes and marijuana. Don’t smoke; smoking simply is not heart-healthy.
RELAX and REST Learn to take a chill break, relax and do something you find enjoyable. Meditate, read a book, indulge in mindless television or enjoy a soothing bath. Relaxing helps manage stress, which will aid in heart health.
Get the sleep that you need. Adequate amounts of sleep allow your heart to rest and will lower your blood pressure. Sleep deprivation works against heart health—you will feel more stressed and crave higher calorie foods.
By following these guidelines, “eating less and moving more” you’re choosing year ‘round heart health.
Take Away: Your heart health is critical, make needed lifestyle changes to work toward a lifetime of good health.
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