Our hearts quietly and relentlessly work hard for us each and every day. As we go about the hustle and bustle of our days, it’s easy to forget that we need to give our hearts some love and attention. But did you know? Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, according to the CDC.
February is Heart Health Month! And we felt it’s the perfect time to take a brief pause and share these simple and easy tips to keep your heart happy now and into the future.
1. Move & Groove
Many of us cringe at the word “exercise.” So let’s just throw that word out the window. The good news is your heart can greatly benefit simply by moving your body more. And you can incorporate more movement into your life in 1,000 different ways. Choose something you love, and you’ll be far more motivated to stick with it. Here are some ideas:
- Get out in your garden
- Go for a brisk walk
- Learn a dance routine on YouTube
- Clean the house (okay not a fun activity, but one you’ll feel good about afterwards)
- Play an active game with your kids or pets
- Try the Yoga Sun Salutation flow.
2. Eliminate Some Couch Time
If it’s easier, think about the opposite approach to being more active – spending less time sitting still. If you work at a computer all day, consider getting up and walking around the house for even just a couple minutes every hour. Are you in a habit of settling down to watch TV right after dinner? Wait 30 min and do an activity that keeps you on your feet instead.
3. Shake Up Your Eating Habits
Our advice here is start small and easy. Instead of declaring yourself to go on a diet, consider small ways to make improvements to your eating habits. Replace your after-dinner ice cream with some fresh fruit and plain yogurt. Instead of going for the bag of chips, buy some popcorn kernels and pop them over the stove. Wherever you’re at, simply look for small ways you can continue to improve your diet. Over time, you’ll be impressed by how a few small changes can actually make a big difference.
4. Add in More Veggies
Instead of eliminating some of your favorite foods, sometimes it’s more exciting to think about simply adding in healthy foods into your daily routine. Make sure your lunch and dinner meals have at least one veggie included. Here are some easy ideas you can start today:
- Add a side of steamed broccoli when you order Thai food takeout
- Buy some raw carrots, bell peppers, snap peas and/or celery when you’re next at the store. Then slice them up into a container and store them in your fridge for easy grab-and-go veggies during snack or meal time.
- Go for pickled veggies! Pickled and fermented vegetables help your body digest the other foods you eat, among other benefits. And the best part is, they come ready to go at your local grocery store. Bartell’s also has some great pickled veggie options for you!
- Roast Your Vegetables. Believe us when we say roasting your vegetables makes them more delicious! Try Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, zucchini, yams, onions and bell peppers. You can mix up a combo on a baking sheet, add some oil, salt, and pepper, and then enjoy the leftovers for a few days. And only one baking sheet to clean!
5. Minimize Stress
We know this one’s easier said that done. However, reducing your stress can have seriously huge benefits for your heart health. We can’t always prevent the stressful situations that come our way, but we can work to better take on these stressful happenings more calmly and peacefully. Here are some easy tips to get started:
- Breathe. Just got left with a huge work project and short deadline? Close your eyes. Take 5 deep breathes. Then tell yourself, “what’s the first step?” Perhaps it’s asking your boss for an extension. It might just be getting started.
- Give yourself permission to “tackle now, stress later.” When a stressful situation comes your way, instead of thinking about how stressful it is, tell yourself you can think about it later. For the present moment, see how you can move through it. Oftentimes, the most stressful part is letting our brains run with anxiety, frustration and fear. When we move past the chatter, we can move on to the action phase.
- Be present. Are you stressing about something that happened in the past? Are you fretting about something in the future? Ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do about this presently?” If the answer is no, then put the stress in a mental box and try to focus on the present moment. Give yourself a chance to rest, relax and enjoy the space and place you’re in, and tackle what’s ahead when it comes your way.
- Give yourself a break. Realize that at the end of the day, we are all human. Not everything has to be exactly perfect. Take a step back and understand the bigger picture. Recognize the accomplishments you’ve already achieved. Sometimes the best motivation to move forward is to be proud of where you’ve been.
Remember, when it comes to heart health, it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Consistency is key, and so is being kind to yourself and setting realistic expectations that you can feel good about right from day 1.
You’re also not alone in your journey! If you have any questions, our pharmacists are here for you and can provide you with additional advice and resources to keep you on track.