Hello friends! Welcome to February, also known as American Heart Month. This month in my wellness world we are talking about and focusing on heart health and I so I thought I would share a bit about it here with you in case this is something you’re focused on or interested in as well.
Not that we don’t already know it by now, but it’s so important to take care of our heart. Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women? Or that 1 in 3 Americans has high blood pressure? Or that having high blood pressure increases our risk of stroke and heart attacks or heart disease? OR, that most people who have hypertension or pre-hypertension don’t even know that they have it?!? And we might think, “Oh well, my blood pressure is fine. This doesn’t concern me”. BUT, things like high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and smoking can increase our risks of hypertension. SO, if you have or do any of these things, then, my friend, this DOES apply to you! Unfortunately there are some things we can’t control, those things that are part of our genetics and family history. On a positive note, however, there are a myriad of things that we can control and that’s what I’ll be talking about today. There are so many things we can do to take care of ourselves but this month I’m focusing on the heart. So let’s try to show our hearts some love this month!
I know that many people focus on food and nutrition as a means to looking “good”. While, yes, that can be a benefit, for me good food and nutrition is about caring for our bodies and giving it what it needs to feel good, stay well, prevent injury, perform at it’s best, etc. The great thing is that by making taking caring of our bodies and listening to what it needs or doesn’t need the focus of and reason behind our food choices, we often see aesthetic improvements as well. I try to focus on listening to and caring for my body first and I try to help those I work with in my wellness space get to a point where they can make that a focus as well. The fun thing for me is that, when they do get there, when they start to focus on nutrition and fitness as a means to caring for their body instead of solely looking a certain way or being a certain number on the scale, then they begin to see at least a small fraction of the results they had wanted in the first place, and they feel better in the process! I love to see the joy on their faces and hear the excitement in their voices when they come back and talk to me.
Now, as I said initially, this month, American Heart Month, in my wellness world we are focusing on heart health. We are looking at what we can do in three specific areas of our lives- nutrition, physical activity, and stress management- to promote a healthy heart. I’ve challenged everyone to pick one thing they can do in each category and write down specifically what that thing or action is, when and how many times a week they will do it, being as specific as possible. My hope is that by the end of this month we will see or feel some positive differences. Below I’ll list some ideas of actions in each category. And I’ll share mine as well, because, of course, I’m participating along with everyone else! What are you doing to take care of your heart!? Comment to share with others or send me a message. I would love to know!
3 AREAS TO IMPROVE OR PROMOTE HEART HEALTH
Pack your own lunch for work.
Cook some meals at home (you control the ingredients)
Don’t add salt to food at the table (remember, those at risk for Hypertension want to limit sodium intake to < 1500 mg / day!)
Increase the potassium you eat (not just in bananas. Think cantaloupe, avocados, grapefruit, oranges, baked potatoes, canned white beans, swiss chard, lima beans, acorn squash, cooked spinach, dried apricots, and cooked kidney beans, navy beans and lentils.
Increase your intake of calcium & magnesium. Think low-fat dairy, almonds, chia seeds, bok choy and collard greens, broccoli, almond butter, peanut butter, other nuts and seeds and throw a little dark chocolate in there :)
Increase your fiber with more fruits, veggies and whole grains.
Limit saturated and trans fats as much as possible.
Include the healthy omega-3 fats from foods like salmon, tuna, and flaxseed.
Reduce added sugars.
choose a type of exercise you love
take stretch breaks at work
take the stairs vs. the elevator
park further away
If you have a fitness center at work, utilize it!
Walk during your lunch break or just take a five-minute walking break in the afternoon.
Play outside with your kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids, etc.
read a book for fun
go on walks
try a yoga or pilates class
listen to soothing or inspiring music
chat with a good friend
do something that makes you laugh
meditate for a moment
For more stress-managing tips, see my previous posts from this stress management program we did back in the fall! (nutrition, exercise, meditation, social networks)
My 3 HEART HEALTHY GOALS FOR FEBRUARY:
Nutrition: Include at least 1 cup of vegetables at lunch each day of the work-week.
Activity: Complete at least 2 fitness classes a week (I am LOVING The Barre Code!)
Stress: Go on 1 walk a week + take 15 minutes 3 days a week to read my Bible.