Show Your Heart Some Love
In February we celebrate the heart. The staff of the Bon Secours Heart & Vascular Institute wants to share the top seven ways you can show your own heart some love.
# 7: Physical Activity– This is one of those things that would be more valued if we needed a prescription in order to access it. The benefits are amazing! The risks of heart disease and many types of cancer are decreased. It can improve mood as much as some antidepressants. Are you having a hard time getting a good night’s sleep? You guessed it – another benefit of exercise. Recent research has also shown that it decreases our risk for cognitive decline. And it doesn’t have “nausea, vomiting” and all those other things listed as potential side effects.
So, how do we fit this into an already busy schedule? Many of us want to do it right or not do it at all. We have our ideal goal of 60 minutes of exercise every day. We think that should include some cardio and resistance training. The recommended amount of exercise to get all the benefits discussed above is only 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days. We usually interpret that to mean at least five days per week. The good news is walking counts. The even better news is you can break this exercise up into three 10-minute periods. So, 10 minutes before work, 10 minutes at lunch and 10 minutes in the evening and you’re done! Feel your risks decrease and your ability to focus increase!
# 6: Pick Quality Fuel– Your body works better when you eat quality foods. That means limiting processed foods. If highly processed foods are currently a big part of your diet, cut out the one that will make the biggest impact – the one you eat the most. Add in more simple foods – grapes instead of chips, carrots instead of fries, or a spinach salad, with touch of vinaigrette dressing, instead of a heavy creamed soup.
Pre-planning will help to ensure success. When you go shopping, make sure you have enough healthy snacks in the house. If they require pre-washing or chopping, you may choose to do this at the beginning of your week to make it easier to choose these snacks throughout the week.
# 5: Drink More Water– It’s not something that seems amazing or unexpected. It is, however, something many of us need encouragement to include in our diets. You may have used any one of the following excuses. “I don’t like the taste of water.” “I forget about it.” “I don’t feel thirsty.” “I’ll have to go to the bathroom all the time.” Our job is not to convince you of all the benefits of drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. You have probably heard that before. You may also know that by the time you feel thirsty, you are already experiencing dehydration. You probably also already know that your metabolic rate improves when you are not dehydrated. (Why do you think all those Weight Watchers’ people walk around with a big bottle of water?) What we want to do is give you some hints that have worked for others to make it easier to do.
First, get a container to drink from that is something you enjoy looking at and is generously sized. If you only have to fill your container two or three times each day in order to know you’ve had enough water, you are much more likely to be successful. Some people have found water bottles that have a counter at the neck. Each time you fill it you can click it over one. No need to keep any numbers in your head! If you don’t enjoy the taste of the water, the simplest thing is to cut some fresh fruit, such as lemons, into a pitcher of water to improve the flavor. You can also buy flavored waters. Just be sure to keep an eye out for other, unexpected, additions to the water such as sugar.
# 4: Get Enough Sleep– Yes, sleep. We didn’t say it was rocket science. What we do know is this is one of the most basic needs our bodies have and one we frequently ignore. For a while it appears we are getting away with it but, eventually, the effects will become evident. The bottom line is, currently, the tipping point for sleep appears to be six hours. However, a physician at one of our Sleep Disorders Centers told me it probably will move toward seven very soon.
It’s not just about how many hours you spend in bed. It’s also about the quality of sleep you enjoy. You can visit the Bon Secours Sleep Disorders Centers to find out about the STOP BANG sleep assessment tool. It’s a simple eight-question assessment tool that will let you know if you should talk with your health care provider about having a sleep study. Good news! The sleep center staff also shared that there is now a sleep test you can do in the comfort of your own home. It can help determine whether or not you would benefit from a full study in the sleep center.
# 3: Know Your Numbers– Your blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL and HDL cholesterol, blood glucose and body mass index are numbers you should know. High blood pressure, cholesterol issues and diabetes may go undetected without proper testing. Knowing your numbers gives you the power to make appropriate lifestyle changes before permanent damage is done to your body. This will decrease your risk for developing heart disease.
# 2: If You Smoke, Stop– Cigarette smoking is the biggest risk factor for sudden cardiac death. Smokers have two to four times the risk of nonsmokers. Cigarette smoke puts added strain on the heart because it causes blood vessels to clamp down or constrict. Smokers who have a heart attack are more likely than nonsmokers to die suddenly.
#1: Choose One Thing– You may have heard the saying, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Often we want to do it all at once. We start off with good intentions but give up after becoming overwhelmed with so many changes. So, pick the one area that will benefit you the most. If you smoke, focus on smoking cessation. If you haven’t seen your primary care doctor in a number of years, make an appointment to have those numbers checked. If you know that sleep is an issue for you, give the Bon Secours Sleep Disorders Centers a call. Choose one thing. Focus there before moving on.
Whichever step you choose can decrease your risk – and show your heart some love this Valentine’s Day.
By Karen Laing, MS, RN, CHES, Clinical Nurse
Cardiac Wellness, Bon Secours Heart & Vascular Institute
Karen_Laing@bshsi.org or 804-285-6898