Heart Health, the Gift We Give Ourselves

You probably already know that February is Heart Health Month. Is a healthy heart only a priority for us during the month of February? We hope not, but for some of us that may be true.  Our goal should be to have created heart healthy habits (say that 5 times fast) that stay with us each day throughout the year. Ideally it would be our lifestyle, right?

WHAT GETS IN THE WAY?

We all have a laundry list of things to keep track of each day, such as kid’s sports schedules, work deadlines, dental appointments, school projects, and more; as a result, heart health might not be at the top of our daily agendas.
Making heart health a priority is not only a gift to ourselves, but to our loved ones as well. So what can we do to introduce some healthy habits to our daily routines?  Let’s look at some ideas.

LEGUMES, TANGERINES, AND BERRIES, OH MY!

Let’s look at the low hanging fruit first (no pun intended). Eating healthier is a big one for sure! Researchers have found that a diet rich in fiber can decrease our risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. We know what you are thinking right now, “Tell us something we don’t already know!”
How about we just start with 5 foods that we can introduce pretty easily that have an impact on our heart health? What might those be?

Let’s start with yogurt; it’s packed with probiotics, antioxidants and healthy bacteria. It has been shown to protect our hearts, boost our immune systems, improve digestion and stimulate our overall health. Go yogurt!
Next, let’s talk about peas; loaded with fiber which helps to keep our arteries free of buildup. They are also considered to be a weight loss food which means they are fighting heart health issues by helping to keep our weight at a healthy range.
Quinoa! So versatile and a great source of vegetable protein, again, great for hearth health. It has twice as much fiber as other grains and also happens to be rich in monounsaturated fatty acids which are good for our hearts. And did I mention how versatile it is?
Rounding out the last two foods is tomatoes! They are a great source of lycopene and vitamin C, which (say it with me), are also good for our hearts.
And last, but certainly not least, we have the summer favorite, watermelon! Again, loaded with lycopene, antioxidants and fiber. It keeps us hydrated and helps to protect us from a variety of heart ailments. So, plant some seeds this spring and eat your watermelon this summer!

LET’S GET MOVING!

So we know that eating healthier is key and we’ve discussed 5 easy foods to add to our diets (while hopefully eliminating the french fries and burgers). What else might we do to take better care of ourselves you ask?
You guessed it! Exercise! I heard you groan all the way over here! But just bear with me for a minute; exercise can be so much fun but the biggest challenge we face is getting off of the sofa and dragging our lethargic selves to the gym.
Let’s talk YMCA! We had to know that the Y was going to be a part of our healthy heart plan, after all, this is a YMCA blog.
Did we know that our area YMCA’s offer a variety of group exercise classes to allow us to customize our workouts and to truly find something that we will enjoy? Land based and water fitness classes give us the opportunity to try different things, mix it up, and develop a routine that appeals to each of us. We just have to move our bodies, even if all we do is take a brisk 10-minute trip around the block after a meal.

TIME TO COUNT SHEEP

Guess what’s next on the list of things that are beneficial to taking care of our hearts? Sleep! A lack of sleep can be connected with elevated cholesterol and blood pressure. Adults benefit most from getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night to aid in the prevention of heart disease. Best news we’ve heard all day, right?

PLAY TIME!

We love this last one; spend time with friends and family! Play together, go to the park, walk the dog together, play a game of catch with your kids, maybe even a rousing game of flashlight tag. Spend time laughing until it hurts! Our hearts will thank us.
2020 is going to be the year of taking care of ourselves! We want to spend as much time with friends and family as we possibly can and moving ourselves to the top of the list is a great way to start, and they will appreciate it too.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Here are some links to resources which will get us started on a strategy that will become our new normal employing some great heart healthy habits today! Remember, making little changes here and there is just as impactful as we continue our journey towards a heart healthy lifestyle. We don’t have to take on everything all at once, just focus on what works for you, little by little!

Heart Healthy Foods
Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations
Healthy Sleep Tips
Exercise guidelines for a healthy heart 
YMCA Wellness
YMCA Chronic Disease Prevention
YMCA Adult Programming

 

Sleep Plays an Important Role in Heart Health

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