(Photo Courtesy of Google Images for Free Use)
Small Changes Can Make A Big Difference
By Zelda Dominguez
“A cheerful heart is good medicine.”
– Proverbs 17:22a (NIV)
February marks American Heart Month. It’s the beginning of a new year, and what a great time to become aware and commit to making small changes that can lead to a longer, healthy life.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men. One in three deaths are heart related in women annually. We generally put more importance on dieting or exercising to lose weight, not for heart health. We need to change our focus. In my own family and my husband’s family, there is a history of heart related problems. Should we just throw up our hands and say we’re destined to have heart disease? No, the good news is heart disease is preventable and can be managed. We can build healthy lives by simple, healthy choices. Here are a few tips on what we shouldn’t do and what we can do. Let’s work together to make a difference in our heart health and start now by making healthy changes!
TIPS ON WHAT NOT TO DO:
Ignore Physical Symptoms
Never assume it’s nothing, or you’re just out of shape. Here are common heart attack symptoms for women: Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach; Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort; breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or experiencing lightheadedness. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort.
Eat Excessive Red Meat
Occasionally it is okay but not daily. Red meat is high in saturated fat. Also processed meats increase risk of cardio vascular disease and colorectal cancer. What are examples of processed meats and unprocessed meats?
It promotes clots that can block the blood flow to the heart and contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries. This even includes vapes.
There is a strong link between gum disease and heart disease.
Use Excessive Salt
The more salt the higher the blood pressure rises, risking a stroke, kidney failure, or heart attack. Always check for sodium content.
Drinking too much alcohol leads to greater risk of high blood pressure, levels of blood fats, and heart failure. It also can cause extra calories which leads to weight gain, which is an unhealthy environment for the heart.
Being stressed, angry, depressed, or hostile can affect your heart health. No joke, internalized stress can be dangerous. Research shows it’s beneficial to relieve stress, have social support, and laugh. Apparently, laughter really is the best medicine!
TIPS ON WHAT TO DO:
Sweat more and sit less. On average we should do 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise. Even at work if you sit, get up to walk and move throughout the day. Also, carrying too much weight around the middle section raises blood pressure. It’s important to maintain a healthy weight.
Eat whole plant based foods. Remember it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. Stay away from refined or processed foods. Cut out sugary beverages including energy drinks. The increased caffeine is also not good for your heart. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies, and don’t skip meals.
Get Good Sleep
At least 7 hours of sleep a night is beneficial for the heart. Adults who reported good sleep also had healthier arteries.
Find a Stress-Relieving Hobby
Walking, swimming, dancing, Zumba. Something you enjoy to unwind. It helps when you have a partner or have group support.
Other beverages like coffee, juices, soda etc. do not replace water. We should have at least 8 glasses a day or more depending on weight. To know the amount that is right for you, divide your body weight in half; that is the number of ounces of water you should drink a day.
Cut out Fast Food
Most are fried or processed food. Although it’s more convenient and sometimes cheaper, we pay for it in other ways. It contains bad cholesterol that can clog the arteries. Cut out anything that says hydrogenated or partial hydrogenated. Those are Trans fats, which are unfortunately found in most fast foods.
Have Regular Checkups
Even if you feel fine, don’t procrastinate on getting your regular checkup or physical exam. It is important to know your optimal levels of blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides. Normal blood pressure level is 120/80 -140/90. So make a point to see a doctor to find out the optimal range for your specific body type.
With these helpful tips you can get a jumpstart on the new year with a healthy, more cheerful heart and that my friends is definitely good medicine.