How to Start Living a Heart Healthy Lifestyle

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LIFESTYLE

By Stacy McClain, NASM-CPT

February is American Heart Month, and what better time than now to commit to a heart-healthy lifestyle and raise awareness about heart disease? Follow these tips below for a happy heart:

Get educated:

Did you know about 1 of every 3 deaths in the United States is caused by cardiovascular disease? Unfortunately, that means odds are very high that either you or someone you love will suffer from a heart attack during your lifetime. However, knowing the symptoms and taking fast action saves millions of lives each year. Study them, commit them to memory, and if you or someone you know experiences any of the below, do not hesitate to call 911 immediately (even if you’re not 100% sure).

Heart Attack Symptoms:

  • Chest discomfort that is recurring or lasts more than a few minutes (discomfort includes pressure, squeezing, and pain).

  • Discomfort in arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach.

Stroke Symptoms:

  • Face drooping

  • Weakness or numbness in one arm

  • Slurred speech

Extra credit if you go get CPR certified. The course only takes 1 day, and you could potentially save a life.

  • Check out some courses being offered near you here.

Get checked out:

Maintaining healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels is a great way to reduce your chances of getting heart disease. In most cases, we are able to take preventative action in making sure our levels stay healthy (more on that below), but first you need to know where you stand. It’s also more convenient than you think. Check your local CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, or even your LifeStart to get screened. No more excuses, just book it already.

Use the two articles below to help you understand your scores:

Move more:

Exercising regularly is key to keeping your heart healthy by preventing conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, and poor cholesterol levels. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, you just have to move. Here are some ideas to implement:

  • Take the stairs

  • Park further away

  • Get off at one train stop before your usual stop

  • Make it a walking meeting

  • Buy a standing desk

  • Set an alarm on your phone to get up each hour

  • Visit your office gym…I know a place ;)

  • Form a walking group

  • Wear comfy shoes (you’ll be more likely to move)

  • Recruit your friends, family and coworkers. (You’re more likely to stick to your movement goals if you have an accountability partner)

Relieve your stress:

High stress can raise your blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels. It can also affect your behaviors and cause you to lose sleep, overeat, and smoke. It’s important that you find an activity, practice, space, thought process or person that helps you unwind. Find some inspiration below:

  • Breathe (4 counts in, 4 count hold, 4 counts out)

  • Meditate (Headspace and Calm are two great apps to try)

  • Workout (find your zen in yoga, or run it out)

  • Get outside

  • Have a cup of tea (decaffeinated)

  • Watch a funny show or video (laughing decreases inflammation in your arteries, and raises HDL levels)

  • Decrease screen time

Eat Clean:

Pay attention to what you put in your body. And remember, eating clean doesn’t have to be boring and sad. There are plenty of healthy AND tasty recipes to be found on the internet, plus you may find cooking becomes your new favorite hobby. Focus on reducing the processed junk food and replacing it with nutrient dense, whole foods.

MORE: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry, nuts, legumes and low fat dairy products

LESS: saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sweets, and sugary drinks

For more information, schedule a meeting with your LifeStart dietitian

References:

Stress Can Increase Your Risk for Heart Disease - University of Rochester Medical Center

Mental Health and Well-Being - American Heart Association

Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2018 At-a-Glance


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