February is American Heart Month and with heart disease being the leading cause of death for men and women it is hard to not take heart health seriously, especially when heart disease is preventable and controllable.
Today also marks the day my Dad was born. And even though he did not lose his life to heart disease, he battled leukemia, it seems appropriate to honor his birthday and his life by bringing awareness to health issues.
I am a huge proponent of preventative care and being proactive in your own health. Being adopted, I have an blank slate in terms of things I should keep an eye on and I feel that has inspired me to be more proactive in my own health. I can't say something does, or does not, run in my genetic family because essentially, anything and everything could. And that brings me to my first tip of 5 Heart Healthy Tips.
1. Embrace preventative care and have annual physicals. This allows for routine screening and don't just rely on your doctor, KNOW YOUR NUMBERS and pay attention. Things your doctor may test for are HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglycerides (want 150 or lower), blood pressure, weight, and BMI. Track changes with your physician. On your own you can measure your waist. If your waistline is greater than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men your risk for diabetes increases.
2. Reduce stress. Increased stress triggers your fight or flight response and the associated hormones. This is not good for your heart health and the good news is you can do things about it. Find time to unwind each day. I personally like to run but reading a book, practicing yoga, or meditating help. In addition, unplug yourself. You do not need to be hooked into your computer or smart phone continuously. I unplug by not blogging every day. Typically, I take the weekends off. Plus, each night I set my phone to the side to participate in family rituals like bedtime stories and cuddles. And hardly ever do I answer my phone during dinner time.
3. Eat well. I remember hearing my mom say a thousand times, you are what you eat. And you know what, she is right. We are what we eat. No, I didn't change into nachos per se but the nutrients and/or junk we put into our bodies become the building blocks of our bodies. Eat your healthy fats but be careful of extra, not-so-healthy fats. Reduce salt to keep blood pressure down. Consume alcohol in moderation - you can have too much of a good thing. Yes, I know it can perhaps help raise HDL but it can also harm your liver. And most importantly, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. These are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants.
4. Exercise daily. Strength training increases muscle mass and decreases body fat. If you are like me, you may not be any good at doing structured strength training at the gym. I feel I have no time for it. But I should make time and it is easy to do at home by tossing in some push-up's, planks, crunches, leg raises, squats, and clams. And keep your heart happy with cardiovascular activities. For me, my go-to is running daily and yes, I get the daily recommendation of at least 30 minutes of activity 5 days a week. And remember you can sneak more exercise in by taking the stairs, parking further away, taking a mid-day walk break at work, and dancing the housework away!
5. SLEEP! This is the biggest thing you can do for your body. It gives your body the chance to repair the damage of the day, fight infection, and grow stronger. It may be my weakness catching a few extra z's but it is still on my list of things to do!
Daily Gratitude: I am thankful for blue skies today. Daily Affirmation: I deserve to have a great life!