5 Vital Ways to LOVE Your Heart More
Written by: Karen Azeez
During this time of year, we spend so much time thinking about how to warm the hearts of those we love – from wives and boyfriends, to kids, friends and parents. For many of us, this caretaking is a year-long habit. But if we – especially women – devote too much time caring for the hearts of others and ignore our own, we may face a host of problems – including heart disease.
In the United States, 1 in 4 women dies from heart disease. In fact, coronary heart disease (CHD)—the most common type of heart disease—is the #1 killer of both men and women in the United States.
I’d say that statistic alone is a good enough reason to put a little more focus on taking good care of your heart, wouldn’t you?
Try incorporating these 5 simple methods of self-care into your life today and let your heart know how much you really care.
#1 Quit Smoking – If you’re under 30, smoking is the biggest risk factor to heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. And if you do, take the first step towards quitting right now. Thankfully, there are many ways to give up this nasty habit: from gums and patches, to support groups and hypnosis. But, overall, the key to stopping is the willingness to take care of yourself – as you would for others. And while addictions are hard to quit, you’re worth the effort so stay the course.
#2 Exercise – Lack of physical activity is the #1 risk factor for those of you over 30. Experts recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week avoid heart disease. That’s just a bit over 20 minutes a day. So if you’re completely sedentary, you can start with a couple of 10-minute walks each day to get benefits. Once you feel comfortable, you can add time to your walks, or try something new like swimming, Zumba, cycling – anything that gets your heart pumping that you enjoy and will stick with!
#3 Eat Healthy – The traditional thinking on a heart-healthy diet has always been low fat, low salt. But, we now know there’s more to it. The type of fat matters, for example. So limit red meats and include a variety of mono and polyunsaturated fats from sources like nuts, fish, avocados and olives in your diet instead. There’s also new evidence that a diet high in refined sugars can raise triglycerides and bad cholesterol, leading to heart damage. Avoiding processed foods and sugary drinks can protect your heart too.
#4 Manage Stress – When you experience stress, your body release adrenaline, a hormone that temporarily causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise. When stress is constant, your body remains in high gear off and on for days or weeks at a time. Chronic stress also raises blood pressure and cortisol levels. If your life is filled with one crisis after another, then it may be time to ask for help, delegate some responsibilities and/or learn some easy calming techniques like breath work, meditation, yoga or tai chi.
#5 Sleep Better -Inadequate sleep is not just an annoying fact of life. Studies have shown poor sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (clogging or hardening of the arteries), heart failure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and obesity. If you stay up most of the night, toss and turn, wake up frequently or just feel fatigued in the morning, there are many minor adjustments you can make to improve your sleep, such as:
- cut back or eliminate caffeine (especially after 3pm)
- shut off electronics at least one hour before bedtime
- don’t consume large meals, spicy food or alcohol 2-3 hours before sleep
- de-clutter your bedroom
- try a warming bath before hitting the sheets
- read in bed
- use a sound/white noise machine
- install room-darkening shades
Keep trying until you find a solution that works, or check out the National Sleep Foundation for more information.
This Valentine’s Day, the best thing you can do for those you love is to make sure you stay healthy. So before you start thinking of other’s hearts, take care of your own.
Health Coach, Wellness Expert and Freelance Writer
at Well Beings
Karen Azeez is a health coach, wellness expert and freelance writer. Karen helps busy men and women incorporate simple lifestyle changes into their daily routine to address issues such as weight gain, insomnia, stress and digestion problems. Karen enjoys cooking healthy meals, hiking with her husband and border collie and watching way too many TV shows about wedding dress shopping.
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