Hearts are everywhere during the month of February. You see them as crafts in magazines, in cards and on cooking shows for that decadent homemade treat. I even made a Sweet Beet soup with a drizzle of Greek yogurt in the shape of a heart for my Sunday Set-Up Club, www.sundaysetup.com.
The month of February also celebrates the heart, however in a completely different way. February is American Heart Month. This year, more than 1 million Americans will have a heart attack or stroke, making heart disease the leading cause of death in men and women in this country. What is even more shocking is that I can't believe people still don't get it. Do you really want to be one of those statistics? It is hard to miss the message as it is everywhere, from Dr. Oz to major network segments on healthy living, newspapers, magazines, your doctor and even products in the supermarket offering healthier choices. Obviously people just don't think anything will happen to them if they stay on the reckless living path.
Interestingly, the medical community is jumping on board a little more these days in that 1 out of 3 patients are being given the recommendation to exercise which is up from last year's 1 out of 4. Come on people, we can't keep getting fatter and more out of shape. We need to keep pushing the message, which is just what Goals of Millions Hearts is doing. The Million Hearts initiative seeks to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by the end of 2016. I say let's help and try to get it done before that. Small changes that you can do right now will make a big difference.
For example, quit smoking already. I mean you can barely smoke anywhere anyway, and doesn't the commercial with that woman talking out of tube gasping for air give you incentive to quit? Stop driving through the drive-thru for meals. You must know by now that you'd probably get less salt in your system by licking a salt lick. Start moving, just like the doctor says. We have continued to live this life of slouchy, sluggish, lazy overweight blobs that wander from chair to chair. At least add a 15 minute walk every day. You can certainly figure out a way to do that for your heart, couldn't you?
The best way I know to get your heart in better shape is to keep in mind your heart is a muscle. To make that muscle stronger and more powerful you have to work it and fight for it. There are tremendous benefits from exercise that are too long to list. However, some still think that exercising is like a chore, so I'd rather call it being more active. MOVE YOUR BODY. Maybe this will help. You know how when you go away for a long time and you ask someone to take your car out for a drive and run the engine? Why wouldn't you do that for your body? Our bodies are just like a machine and need to be worked to stay in good running condition. All you need is 20 to 30 minutes of exercise that keeps your heart at 60 percent to 70 percent of your maximum heart beat rate. For adults that is about 110 beats per minute. Walking fast is ideal, which is not a window-shopping stroll. We need increased breathing that is hard and fast. It is even better to to jog or even run if your joints can take it. Interval training has a number of benefits. This is one of the simplest and powerful things one can do to keep the heart healthy. So combine the walk with a run or a flat walk combined with walking hills. Do anything to get the heart rate up.
Build a Support System to Help With Stress.
Start by talking to your spouse, family, and close friends about your health and how to manage the stress in your life. They may be able to help you reduce or alleviate certain stressors.
Recognize Your Stress Triggers.
Learn to identify the things in your life that can trigger stress. Your job, certain relationships with family, friends, driving in traffic, the economy, personal health issues or others and try to figure out ways to either avoid those triggers and most importantly how to cope.
How can I relax?
It can be as easy as taking 20 minutes to simply sit and think, or do an activity that soothes you. Examples include reading, listening to music or taking a bath. My favorite stress reliever is to lie down, place one hand over my belly button, and place the other hand over my chest. Breathe deep through the belly and feel it rise and fall. Your stress melts to your toes and out of the body.
One of the best ways to manage the stress in your life is to learn the word NO. We live in a life of busy from morning to noon to night. It is crazy living! Avoid taking on more responsibilities or social obligations. Set boundaries on your calendar by putting a big red X through days where you can just do what you want to do.
Celebrate with dark chocolate (antioxidant) and red wine. However, keep the celebrating going all month long and do what you can to improve the health of the most important heart of all. Get a heart check up. Know your family history. Eat better. Move more. Floss your teeth and breathe deep.
Now... before you think about another thing. Turn off your computer, stand up and go take a walk around the block.
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