Show Your Heart A Little Love During Heart Health Month
Every time the month of February rolls around, I’m sure many of us aspect to see red heart shaped decor in every supermarket and shopping mall as we prepare to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Did you know that February is also American Heart Health month? Did you know that cardiovascular disease, or heart disease, is the number one leading cause of death in the United States? Every year, about 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease.
There’s a well known Christian Proverb that tells us “to keep or guard our hearts above all else [with all diligence] because out of it flows the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Such great wisdom that's usually applied to our spiritual and emotional hearts can benefit our physical hearts as well. Transporting blood [life] to every part of the body, the heart is one of the most vital organs within the human body. Leaving this organ unkept or unprotected can result in illness of the heart and ultimately death of the entire body. With about twelve more days left in the month, it's not too late to show your heart a little love by adding some heart healthy habits to your lifestyle.
Be Hope-full: I’m sure this is not a popular tip on many health sites as a prevention method for heart disease, but I believe that hope is such a powerful driving force for us as human beings. When we hope, we have potential for faith. When we have faith, we have a root for passion and purpose in life; but “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). Many become sick because they've lost hope, confidence or optimism for the future. I encourage you not to give up. Pursue your dreams. Find and do what you love. Your passion for life and your purpose will inspire you to care for your body as the vehicle to your dreams.
Choose A Nutritious Diet: One of the biggest contributors to heart disease is lack of a commitment to a healthy diet. The goal is to develop an overall healthy eating pattern rather than obsessing over individual foods. In addition to colorful fruit and veggies, include healthy fats in your diet such as raw nuts, olive oil, and avocados. Make sure you’re eating foods rich in fiber such as whole grain cereals, breads, and pastas. Eating foods rich in Omega 3-fatty acids such as fish, eggs, and unsweetened yogurt are especially good for the heart. Lastly, don’t forget your calcium gained from low fat or non-fat milk or cheeses. Try to stay away from foods high in salt, fried foods, whole fat dairy, packaged foods, refined pastas and rice, white breads, red meats, bacon, and cut down on sugar. Enjoy a piece of dark chocolate every once in a while
Stay Active: Be physically active everyday. Some form of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for about 30 minutes per day helps to reduce risk of heart disease. Don’t be afraid to start small with walking jogging, dancing, etc. Any amount of physical fitness contributes to a healthy heart. It will help to lower your blood pressure, burn off stress, improve quality of your sleep, strengthen your heart, and help to maintain a healthy weight.
Know your blood pressure: High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of heart disease. Find out what your blood pressure is by getting your physical check ups done frequently. If you find that you have high blood pressure or at risk, partner with your health provider to learn the steps to take to reduce or maintain your blood pressure.
Reduce Stress: Stress not only contributes to heart disease, but also stroke. There is no one size fits all model for stress management, but minimize your stress by changing the way you view possibly stressful situations, expressing your feeling instead bottling them up, learning to manage your time better, engaging socially, and doing the things you love.
Stop smoking & limit alcohol use: Smoking increases blood pressure and increase chances of blood clots forming in your arteries. It also decreases your chances of recovering from a heart attack. Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure, which as I stated earlier, is the leading cause of heart disease. However, moderate alcohol usage can have cardioprotective effects. If you choose to drink, it is advised that men limit to 2 drinks per day and women 1 drink per day.
I hope you found these heart healthy tips useful and applicable to your life. Love yourself enough to truly take care of your self. And spread the word about Heart Health month. Any questions or comments, please comment below.