Article contributed by Charlotte Hayes MMSc, MS, RD, CDE
It is February, the month of passion, love and heart health. Reminders of love and passion are everywhere – red and pink roses, balloons and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. I enjoy this month. The hubbub of the holidays is over, days begin to grow longer, and yes, love is in the air. But most of all, this month never fails to renew my passion for heart health. February, not January, is when I evaluate my lifestyle and resolve to take action to keep my heart beating strong.
February is National Heart Health Month, so messages and advice about heart health abound along with reminders that heart disease is serious and deadly. I realize these reminders are important, but I prefer to focus on the positive things I get to do to boost my heart health and overall well-being. Here are things I commit to doing – all are fairly simple, enjoyable and proven to improve heart health.
- Healthy Eating and Drinking: I make my calories count by including lots of fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies in my meals and snacks. High-salt foods are out and healthy oils, such as olive oil are in. When I have a treat, good chocolate is something I enjoy – especially since it has beneficial antioxidants. When it comes to beverages, there is nothing better than fresh, cool water. I enjoy sipping an occasional glass of wine which, in moderation, may lower heart attack risk.
- Being Active: I love being active, but as life has gotten busier with work and family, fitting activity in is not as easy as it once was. My tricks? I build small, frequent amounts of activity in on busy week days and do more on weekends. I use a pedometer to track my daily step counts and aim to do at least 150 minutes of activity each week. Weights and stretching are part of my routine too – two or three sessions per week is my goal.
- Reducing Stress: This is something that I really have to work on. I tend to maintain a non-stop pace and can easily become over-committed. I have learned, however, to “just say no” and to focus my energy on doing more of the things I find personally meaningful and important. I also make time for enjoyment, relaxation and fun – high on my list is being active outdoors. Even so, I can get to a point of feeling pressure, tension and a racing heart. When I feel these obvious signs of stress, I take a 10 minute break – either heading outside for a quick walk or listening to a calming relaxation CD. The mind is a powerful tool, and doing what it takes to maintain a positive outlook makes all the difference when it comes to lowering stress and strain on the heart and cardiovascular system.
- Enjoying clean air: I stay clear of tobacco smoke. Fortunately, as more places are becoming smoke free, this has gotten easier.
That’s my short “to do” list for my heart health. I hope you are thinking about things you can do to keep your heart healthy too. To get started, visit some of the informative Websites from the agencies and associations that support National Heart Health Month.
American Heart Association: www.heart.org and http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/General/2012-Go-Red-For-WomenHeart-Month-Kickoff_UCM_320383_Event.jsp
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/educational/hearttruth/materials/wear-red-toolkit.htm
US Department of Health and Human Services & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Million Hearts™: http://millionhearts.hhs.gov/index.html
Remember, Good Measure Meals™ is here to help. We build healthy ingredients into each meal to make it easier for you reach your heart healthy goals. With Good Measure as a solid nutrition foundation, you can get out of the kitchen which leaves you more time to take a total approach to your heart health.