February is American Heart Month, an initiative to increase awareness about cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, but there are many ways to prevent it.
Staying heart healthy is important and better yet, not impossible. If you’ve been diagnosed with a heart disease, have precursors such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, have a family history of heart disease, or even just want to be preventive, we’ve got some out-of-the-box ways you can live a longer, healthier life.
1. Swap the Bad Habits for Good Habits
It can be tempting after a long, hard day to unwind with one of your favorite spirits, a smoke break, or lying in front of the TV. But these can all be dangerous to your ticker. Instead, choose an activity that will get your blood pumping, such as a walk around the block after dinner to clear your thoughts. If you’re extra tired, take your imagination on a journey with a book, or put your skills to the test with a new hobby such as knitting. This relaxing hobby challenges the brain (and the fingers) while relieving stress with the repetitive motions.
2. Get Creative in the Kitchen
Being heart healthy gives you the opportunity to try new things and invite a variety of new flavors into your kitchen. Mix up your favorite dishes for a heart-healthy twist, and incorporate healthy ingredients that provide an alternative your heart will appreciate. This doesn’t mean you have to give up good taste — many heart-healthy foods can be delicious when prepared right. Add some guacamole to your tacos, some black beans to your salsa and put some walnuts on your salad and you’re on your way to a healthier heart.
3. Just Dance
Whether you sign up for rumba lessons or just bounce around to your favorite song at home, dancing is great for the heart. Movement in general strengthens and tones muscles and aids in weight loss, but it also gets your heart pumping and your blood moving. Any form of aerobics is good for the heart, but dancing can be fun and challenging if you’re going for a more structured form. According to the Mayo Clinic, ballroom dancing can burn 200 to 300 calories per hour, depending on the individual’s weight.
4. Have a Good Laugh
Laughter may really be the best medicine, after all. According to the American Heart Association, research has suggested that laughing reduces stress hormones and artery inflammation, and increases the “good” cholesterol, HDL. Laughter’s effects can last up to 24 hours and promotes a positive outlook on life. Research on the subject has also indicated that those with heart disease are 40 percent less likely to laugh than those who do not have it. So tell a joke, watch a funny movie or reminisce over a funny memory with a friend today.
5. Enjoy Your Furry Friends
Pets are an enjoyable way to stay heart healthy. Walking and playing with your pet increases physical activity, but the companionship they provide is also good for your heart. Pet owners were found in research done by a Johns Hopkins medical study to have lower blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than their petless counterparts. The next time you feel stressed, spend some time with your four-legged friends. You’ll be having fun while doing your heart a favor.
There are many ways to stay heart healthy, and perhaps the most important way of all is to stay on top of your regular wellness visits with your doctor, so your numbers can be monitored. If you’re interested in learning some of the numbers your body has to detect heart health, consider attending the Fisher-Titus Healthy Heart Fair on Saturday, Feb. 11. Our physicians at the Snyder/White Heart & Vascular Center will be available from 7:00 to 9:45 a.m. to discuss heart health issues, answer questions and provide health screenings. Registration closes on Feb. 9, so reserve your spot today, as space is limited. For more information, call 419-660-2646, or click here.