February is American Heart Month, making it the perfect time to commit to living a healthier lifestyle. Family history is one major risk factor for heart disease, but an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and being overweight can also elevate your risk. To get yourself and those you love back on the right track, start by heading to your general practitioner for a full check-up. This should be done yearly. To make sure you’re staying healthy year-round, try following these daily tips.
Heart-Healthy Tip #1: Eat Right
Eating right isn’t just a great idea, it’s a necessity. By putting the right food into your body, you’ll receive the proper nutrients it needs to fight off everyday germs, and helps you stay energized and strong. Try these easy tips for eating right:
- Prep meals ahead of time. Spend some time one day a week putting together nutritious meals for yourself and your family members to grab and heat up.
- Never go shopping on an empty stomach. This will help you avoid buying treats that aren’t on your shopping list.
- Take a walk. After a meal, take your family on a walk together to resist the urge to overeat and to grab a sweet treat. The best dessert will be spending more time together.
- Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks. When choosing something to drink, steer clear of alcohol, sodas, and sports drinks. Remember, water is your friend as it takes up 70% of your body. Keep fully hydrated, and replace any water you may lose from sweat.
Heart-Healthy Tip #2: Exercise Regularly
Exercise helps keep the body strong and helps keep the weight off and the heart healthy. Try these small ways to make healthy decisions every day.
- When you go shopping, park farther away from the door, walking is good for your body.
- Instead of taking the escalator or elevator, take the stairs.
- If you’re at a wedding or even in your own living room, dance to the tunes that are playing. You’ll be surprised how many calories you can burn from busting a move.
- Love to watch TV? Walk or jog in place in your living room or place the TV in front of your treadmill and enjoy your shows while getting in a daily workout.
- Find a partner who will motivate you to work out more often and push you to try exercises that challenge you.
- Try new activities and sports each week to keep your workouts interesting.
- Wear a pedometer to track your steps. Increase your target number each day.
- Always remember to stay hydrated and stretch before and after every workout!
Heart-Healthy Tip #3: Reduce Stress
Taking care of sick or aging loved ones can be stressful and this stress can cause strain on the heart, increasing the chances of a heart attack. Make sure you take care of yourself daily to decrease your stress levels.
- Use a to-do list to organize everything you need to do each day. This will help you focus on your most important tasks at work, at home, and with your loved ones.
- Slow down. There is no rush to do everything at once. Make a plan ahead of time for events or appointments that are coming up so everyone is fully prepared.
- Have “me” time. Everyone needs time to themselves. Spend at least 30-60 minutes a day with your phone on mute and doing something that makes you happy. This can be reading a book, painting, meditating, anything that relaxes you.
- Sleep. Sleep. Getting 6-8 hours each night can help reduce stress and depression. Can’t sleep? Exercise can help with this.
Smoking harms you as well as those around you. Cardiovascular disease and cancer are the two top potential high-risk outcomes of a smoking addiction. Did you know smoking, along with alcohol and caffeine, can increase your stress levels? Kick these harmful habits today for a healthier tomorrow. A portion of these tips were taken from the American Heart Association website.