Posts tagged with "heart health"

Give Your Heart Some Love

Your heart spreads love to the people around you. But you may forget how important it is to take care of it and keep it healthy. If we’ve developed unhealthy habits, our heart could suffer the consequences – congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, and even cardiac arrest!  So, have you been giving your heart enough love lately? If not, it’s time to start!

Time to Make a Change

February is American Heart Month. Do you know what that means? It’s the perfect time to start taking care of your heart! But don’t feel like you need to make the changes happen all at once. Instead, tiny steps create small wins to reach a larger goal. No matter what you do – move more or eat better – you can work toward a healthy heart. Here are a few ways to start down the path to a healthier you.

What’s Up, Doc?

We often don’t believe heart disease will affect us or those we love, but it can. Each year, 1 in 4 people die of heart disease, but it doesn’t have to be you. Before you begin your wellness journey, you need to know your numbers. Knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels is beneficial to give you a goal to aim for. Here are the target numbers:

Blood Pressure:

  • Systolic (top number) – no higher than 120
  • Diastolic (bottom number) – no higher than 80

Cholesterol:

  • LDL should be less than 100 mg/dL
  • HDL should be 60 ml/dL or higher
  • Total cholesterol should be less than 200

Exercise is the Best Medicine

Are you getting enough physical activity each week? Being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle will put a large strain on your heart. Exercise is a great way to keep your heart in good shape and maintain a healthy weight! Add a few minutes of physical activity into your schedule each day until you get at least 150 minutes a week of exercise. That’s only 20 minutes a day! Losing just 5% of your body weight dramatically lowers your risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. For a 200-pound person, that’s only 10 pounds. You can do that!

Eat Healthy to Your Heart’s Content

Along with physical activity, it is important to eat healthier to reduce your risk of heart disease. Avoid a diet high in sodium, saturated fats, and sugar. Try to incorporate veggies, fruits, whole grains, fish, vegetable oils, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. When you combine eating better and exercising, you’ll lower your body weight and your risk for chronic disease.

For instance, if you want to have a snack, make it heart-healthy! Try swapping an unhealthy snack for a more nutritious one. Instead of a candy bar, try an apple. Instead of potato chips, how about some carrots with hummus? And remember to take portioned snacks with you to eat throughout the day to avoid overeating.

Ready, Get Set, Quit!

Did you know the chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels? If you smoke, motivate yourself by setting a day to quit. It could save your life! No one else can take action to quit but you. If you need assistance in quitting, talk to your doctor. He or she may prescribe NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) aids to help curb the cravings.

Count Your Z’s

Quality sleep is vital for keeping your body healthy. It’s true! Getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night boosts your immune system, manages your hunger levels, improves memory, and reduces your chances of developing heart disease. Need some help falling asleep? Practice ways to relax before you go to bed. Turn off the TV, put down the phone, listen to soothing music, or meditate –this can help you fall asleep and improve the quality of your sleep.

You’re Not Alone

It’s hard to continue your way to wellness when you lack the motivation or you feel alone. Having support from friends and family is important to help you achieve your goals.

Here are a few examples to maintain a high level of motivation while encouraging the people around you to love their hearts too:

  • Spread the love – Spend good quality time with your significant other, children, friends, family, or coworkers by planning a fun date together. Get active or cook a wholesome meal!
  • Step your way to a healthier heart – Create a step contest with your friends or coworkers. See who can get the most steps each month. Make it extra fun by awarding prizes to those who excel!
  • Set up an online support group – You’re not alone in this journey to a healthier heart. Make sure you let others know they have your support. All of you will become inspired by each other’s stories.
  • Spread awareness – Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. Raise awareness this month by actively talking about heart health and ways to keep the people around you healthy.
  • Make a contract – Choose several family members who want to lose weight and make a contract to be healthier with them. Provide support and encouragement so you can love your hearts together!

Raising Awareness for Women

While heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both genders, it is important to spread awareness for women as they often do not experience the same symptoms as men. On February 7th, in support of women’s heart health, wear red to raise awareness. Your involvement could help decrease the incidences of heart disease and stroke! Check out this video, Watch Me Go Red, from the American Heart Association.


This blog was written by Miranda Smudzinski, USPM Health & Wellness Content Contributor


References:
https://newsroom.heart.org/events/february-2020-american-heart-month-and-go-red-for-women
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/education-and-awareness/heart-month
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/all-publications-and-resources/taking-care-hearts-together
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/all-publications-and-resources/25-ways-take-part-heart-month

Boost Your Immune System and Your Heart Health

Effective Ways to Boost Your Immune System

Take preventive measures today to take care of your heart and body.  In the past few months, the U.S. has witnessed one of the worst flu seasons since the swine-flu pandemic of 2009. A recent study suggests that the flu doesn’t just cause aches, chills, and fatigue but it may also increase the risk of a heart attack. The study shows a six-fold increase in heart attacks shortly after people get the flu.1

The flu season usually begins in October or November and peaks between December and February, and can last as late as May, according to the CDC. Each year, the flu is estimated to cause between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths and up to 710,000 hospitalizations in the U.S.1

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu shot. The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recommend the shot for people with heart disease.

Another way to protect yourself against disease is to improve your heart health. The American Heart Association has started a ‘Healthy For Good’ revolutionary movement to inspire you to create lasting change in your health and your life, one small step at a time. The following are excellent ways to boost your immune system and prevent diseases.

Eat Smart to Stay Healthy

A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons against cardiovascular disease. Eating healthy doesn’t mean dieting or giving up the foods you love.

  • Eat more plants! When you eat a vegetarian diet, be sure to add foods rich in iron, Vitamin B12, Calcium, and Zinc.
  • Limit sweets, fatty or processed meats, solid fats like butter, and salty or highly processed foods.
  • Avoid bad fats (solid or saturated fats from animal sources like meat, dairy, and tropical oils) and incorporate healthier fats (nontropical liquid oils, nuts and seeds, avocados, and fatty fish) into your diet.
  • Stock your kitchen with fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Ditch the processed and junk foods!
  • Instead of eliminating foods you love, concentrate on eating smaller portions.
  • Eat reasonable portions, even when you’re served more than you need (Split an entrée when dining out).

Move More

A good starting goal is at least 150 minutes a week, but if you don’t want to sweat the numbers, just move more! Find forms of exercise you enjoy and will stick with, and build more opportunities to be active into your routine.

  • Start walking – begin with a few minutes each day, and add more minutes each week.
  • Find ways to make walking fun, whether that’s changing your route, inviting friends or listening to your favorite podcast.
  • Don’t skip out on your warm-up, 5-10 minutes is a good rule of thumb.
  • Get the whole family moving – adding exercise is easier when it’s a shared activity.
  • Make time during a busy day for activity by going for a brisk walk during your lunch break or taking the stairs as often as possible.
  • Cool down after a workout to help your body reset and recover a little bit easier – this is the best time to stretch when your muscles are still warm.
  • Turn TV time into a workout – during every commercial break do a body weight exercise (squats, push ups, jumping jacks).

Add Color

An easy first step to eating healthy is to include fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack. All forms (fresh, frozen, canned and dried) and all colors count, so go ahead and add color to your plate – and your life!

  • To mix up your spaghetti routine, add an imposter pasta such as one made from black bean, edamame, chick pea or a vegetable pasta such as zucchini noodles.
  • Roast vegetables in high heat to caramelize and bring out their natural flavors; don’t overdo it with salt or sauces.
  • Grill fruits to unlock a deeper sweetness and give their color some char.
  • Add color to your plate with the 5 main color groups: red and pink, blue and purple, yellow and orange, white and brown and green. Check out healthyforgood.heart.org for examples from each group. 
  • Look at your plate each time you eat, and if it’s too beige, add a serving of fruits or vegetables.
  • Go meatless – add mushrooms in place of beef, go with veggies and beans in your stir fry or use thick cut eggplant in place of chicken.

Be Well

Along with eating right and being active, better health requires getting enough sleep, practicing mindfulness, managing stress, keeping your mind and body fit, and connecting socially.

  • Be more active, limit caffeine before bed, and establish a better sleep routine.
  • Neutralize your racing mind by acknowledging thoughts as they come and letting them pass freely.
  • Focus on healthy outlets for stress, like taking a walk, journaling, volunteering or a hobby that you love.
  • Take time out for you – use your vacation days, whether you go on a big trip or just hang at home for a staycation.
  • Don’t overlook your emotional and mental health – get help if you need it to manage stress, anxiety, depression or grief.
  • Practice deep breathing techniques by inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth slowly and deliberately.
  • Take preventive measures to avoid stress, like leaving a few minutes earlier to avoid being late, or avoiding busy roads so you can stay calm while driving.
  • In high-anxiety situations, give yourself some space – take a walk and come back later when tensions subside.

 Prevent the Flu2

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against the flu viruses.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • If you are sick with a flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
  • If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness.
  • Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines and are not available over-the-counter.
  • Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications.

References:

  1. American Heart Association: https://news.heart.org/flu-blankets-nation-new-study-links-virus-heart-attacks/
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/prevention.htm
Stress and Heart Health

Stress and Your Heart’s Health

You may be surprised to learn that you might be bringing unnecessary stress into your life by your own choices and lifestyle habits. It’s important to remember, even during times of stress, anxiety, or depression, that your heart health is vital to both your mental and physical wellbeing.

During stress, your body releases adrenaline, the hormone that temporarily causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up, and raises your blood pressure1. These are normal reactions (the “fight or flight” response) that help you prepare to face a stressful situation. Constant stress, however, can have a negative wide-ranging effect on emotions, some of which include:

  • Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain
  • Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms
  • Unexplained or frequent “allergy” attacks
  • Chest pain, palpitations, rapid pulse
  • Depression, frequent or wild mood swings
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
  • Increased frustration, irritability, edginess2

Prolonged or chronic stress increases cortisol, the stress hormone, and can wreak havoc on your health by compromising your immune system and contributing to many diseases including high blood pressure. Research shows that excessive stress can affect lifestyle behaviors and factors that increase the risk of heart disease3.

  • Sudden stress increases the pumping action and heart rate resulting in rising blood pressure.
  • Stress alters the heart rhythms posing a risk for rhythm abnormalities in people with existing heart rhythm disturbances.
  • Stress causes certain blood cells to become stickier.
  • Stress impairs the clearance of fat molecules in the body making it more difficult to lose weight.
  • Stress that leads to depression appears to be associated with an increased intima-medial thickness (a measure of the arteries that signifies worsening blood vessel disease)2.

Heart disease accounts for 1 in 7 deaths and remains the number 1 cause of death in the United States4.


Stressors, any event that causes the release of stress hormones, can be different for each person. Stressors can be helpful during emergency situations, meeting deadlines or reaching your goals. But stressful situations, such as divorce or job loss, can produce long, low-level stress that over time wears down the body’s immune system and increases the risk of heart disease and a variety of other health problems5.

When stress persists, it can often affect various organs and tissues all over the body including:

  • Nervous system
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Respiratory system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Endocrine system
  • Gastrointestinal system
  • Reproductive system6

Tips to Reduce Stress

While we’re unable to rid ourselves from all inevitable stressors, fortunately, there are lifestyle changes and stress-reduction techniques you can practice to improve your response to stress and help minimize its damaging effects on your heart and overall health.

  • Exercise. When you exercise, your body releases natural, mood-lifting chemicals that help you feel better. Your workout doesn’t have to be extreme; a short walk every day is all it takes.
  • Nutrition. Eating meals that are balanced and portion-controlled will keep you mentally and physically healthy.
  • Sleep. Poor sleeping habits can have a harmful effect on your mood. It is important to get plenty of sleep and rest. Most people need about seven to eight hours each night.
  • Social Support. Talk with friends and family frequently. Think about joining a special-interest class or group. Volunteering is a great way to meet people while helping yourself and others.
  • Deep Breathing. Taking a deep breath is an automatic and effective technique for winding down.
  • Meditation. Studies have suggested that regular meditation can benefit the heart and help reduce blood pressure.
  • Humor. Research shows that humor is an effective mechanism for coping with acute stress. It is recommended to keep a sense of humor during difficult situations. Laughter can release tension and help you maintain perspective, but it can also have physical effects that reduce stress hormone levels in your body.
  • Avoid Alcohol Use. If you are going to drink alcohol, limit how often you drink, and practice moderation as alcohol may increase your risk of depression.
  • Recognize When You Need Help. If you continue to have problems, are unable to overcome the difficult circumstance, or are thinking about suicide, talk to a professional counselor, psychologist or social worker2,7.

Adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors is instrumental in preserving your health and preventing disease. Health is more than just the absence of disease; it is a resource that allows you to reach your goals, satisfy your needs and cope within your environment for more good years®.


References

  1. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/StressManagement/HowDoesStressAffectYou/Stress-and-Heart-Health_UCM_437370_Article.jsp#.WV0hu1GQxQI
  2. A.D.A.M. Stress
  3. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/StressManagement/HowDoesStressAffectYou/How-does-depression-affect-the-heart_UCM_460263_Article.jsp#.WVo-IlGQxQI 
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/
  6. https://www.stress.org/stress-effects/
  7. nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus

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