February is American Heart Month!

February is American Heart Month!

In the month of February, we are focusing on heart health and living a more active lifestyle. The American Heart Association has a great website with a ton of useful information about nutrition, exercising, and simple steps to increase your heart functionality and better your everyday lifestyle.

Heart disease is still the number one cause of death in the United States. There are many ways to combat this statistic and increase your chances of a healthier lifestyle, and the easiest begins with nutrition.

Keep it simple: Burn as many calories as you take in. Eat a healthy diet that encompasses a variety of nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, nuts, and non-tropical vegetable oils. Limit your saturated and trans fats, red meats, and sugary beverages. (Such as Soda!) Replace your high-calorie saturated fatty foods with fruits or vegetables, or whole grains to keep you full for longer. Drink water when you feel as though you’re hungry, you may be thirsty! Our bodily response is the same when craving food or water. When eating whole grains, choose ones with the highest amounts of fiber. When preparing poultry, lean red meat, or fish, prepare them in healthier ways with no added saturated or trans fats.

Another big help for your heart health – live tobacco free. This includes vaping, smoking, or any other nicotine products. Drop the habit, your heart will thank you later!

Regarding exercise, the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or any combination of the two. Spend the least amount of time sitting as possible, and add muscle strengthening activity on at least 2 days per week.

Another way to help your heart is to keep track of your stress levels – luckily, there are plenty of simple steps you can take daily to keep your stress low!

  • Positive self-talk. This may seem silly at times, but most people generally tend to speak negatively to themselves, and this has a huge impact on your everyday life! Start trying to turn small, negative thoughts into positive affirmations.
  • Participate in some stress-burning activities. They can come from just about any hobby you can think of, such as art, reading, meeting up with friends, playing with pets, yoga, listen to music, taking a walk, or even going for a bike ride.

There are also some steps you can take to stop stress from building higher in more emergency situations. They can be quite useful in situations where things are escalating quickly and you need a moment to de-stress.

  • Count to 10 before you speak or act. This is a big one that they teach in different types of therapy to regain your present mind and take a step back from a situation.
  • Take a few slow, deep breaths.
  • Go for a walk, or participate in some meditation.
  • If it’s not incredibly urgent, sleep on it and come back to it tomorrow. If it’s unable to be dealt with tomorrow, take some time away from the situation for a bit and return to it when things have calmed down.
  • Break down larger problems into more-manageable parts.
  • Turn on some calming music – classical is a good place to start, as the lack of lyrics will allow your brain to relax.
  • Take a break to love on your pet, or hug someone close to you. Hugs with someone special are known to release oxytocin, which lowers your heart rate and your cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress and high-blood pressure, as well as heart disease.

(In short, give lots of hugs.)

There are many ways to support heart health, and donating to the American Heart Association to fight heart disease is a big one. To donate, visit their website here: https://www2.heart.org/site/SPageNavigator/donatenow_heart_alt.html?s_src=comp_home

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