February is American heart month and so it is important we discuss how to love your heart.
I know, I know we normally think more of our heart’s love interests once February rolls around but I am sure our Valentine would appreciate it if we took our actual heart health a little more seriously.
Our heart is busy pumping oxygen-rich blood throughout our body day in and day out, how many of us actually give any thought to keeping our hearts healthy?
Not many of us, unless we have experienced problems or witnessed family with heart disease, we don’t give the health of our hearts a second thought.
The sad fact is that heart disease remains the number 1 killer of both men and women in the United States and Canada.
When our grandson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, we soon learned that diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
This just gave us one more reason to learn how to keep our hearts as healthy as possible.
So let’s see what we can do to keep our hearts happily pumping.
Part of maintaining a healthy heart is ensuring we get a night’s sleep regularly.
At least 7 hours of sleep each night has been shown to reduce the amount of calcium build-up in our hearts.
Some people have a hard time sleeping and so I recommend these tips:
- go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time each day
- ensure the room is dark enough
- a cool room is better for sleeping
- limit screen time an hour or two before bed
- abstain from caffeine drinks in the evening
- limit alcohol consumption
A healthy well-balanced diet is an important element in keeping your heart healthy.
In fact, the Mediterranean Diet is considered to be optimal for heart health.
This diet includes plenty of vegetables and fruit, olive oil, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, poultry and red wine in moderation.
It also limits saturated fats and allows no trans fats. Red meat is rarely if ever eaten and refined sugar and processed foods are avoided.
There are plenty of fantastic recipes so your palette will be content and your heart healthy.
The American Heart Association recommends that if you don’t drink, don’t start.
However, if you do indulge on occasion be sure to limit your intake to one drink for a woman and two drinks for a man.
Also, try to drink just before or with your evening meal.
Moderation is key.
If you smoke, STOP. your heart and lungs will thank you for it.
Smoking dramatically increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Just a year after quitting you will have reduced your risk by as much as 50%.
Talk to your doctor about help available to help you quit smoking.
Ensuring daily exercise is important to heart health.
Lately, it seems the 10,000 step challenge seems quite popular.
Studies have shown that people who complete 10,000 steps a day have experienced some great health benefits.
Exercising just 30 minutes or more three times a week can help you lose weight, improve cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and improve blood glucose levels for diabetics.
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Head outside for a walk with a friend or crank up the music and dance to your favourite tunes.
Remember a good exercise is any movement that increases blood flow and increases your heart rate.
We have all heard the old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.”
Turns out there is a lot of truth to that.
When we laugh, there is a reduction in stress hormones and endorphins and T-cells are boosted.
If we have a good hearty belly laugh we can even get an ab workout.
So go ahead, get together with some friends and share a few laughs.
Stress management is an important factor.
Learn what types of stress you have and take the time to learn effective ways of reducing or managing the stress in your life.
There are many relaxation techniques, meditation or yoga techniques available that are very effective.
Take the time to check them out and find something that works for you.
According to Diabetes Canada, people with diabetes may develop heart disease 15 years earlier than those without diabetes.
People with diabetes often have several high-risk factors such as:
- high blood glucose (sugar) levels
- being overweight (especially around the belly)
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- people who smoke
- have a family history of heart disease or stroke
Diabetic women are at an even greater risk than men of developing heart disease or stroke.
Signs of a heart attack?
It is important for everyone to know the symptoms of a heart attack and to understand what to do in the event of an emergency. You could save a life.
The common symptoms of a heart attack are:
- Chest discomfort, This could feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, burning or heaviness
- Upper body discomfort. This could be neck, jaw, shoulders or back
- Shortness of breath
What to do
Thousands of Canadians and Americans die from heart attacks each year. Recognize the symptoms. Act quickly. The life you save could be your own.
- Call 911 to the emergency number for your area
- Stop all activity. Sit or lie down in whatever position is most comfortable
- Take your nitroglycerin if you have it (regular dosage)
- Take ASA (Aspirin) chew or swallow ASA if you are not allergic
- Rest and wait. Stay calm while waiting for help to arrive.
- Keep a list of your medications in your wallet and by phone. Emergency responders will want this information.
In this article, we have learned about how to love your heart and why it is so important.
We have learned that by making certain lifestyle changes, we can improve our heart’s health and improve our odds of living a long, healthy and productive life.
By ensuring we get enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol, stopping smoking, getting regular exercise, socializing and reducing stress we can help make our heart healthier.
We have also learned that having diabetes puts us at an increased risk of developing heart disease and/or stroke.
It is important to learn and recognize the signs or symptoms of a heart attack and to know what to do in an emergency.
Having a clear understanding of these could help you save a life, maybe even your own.
I am not in any way a medical practitioner, please do not rely on the information on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another healthcare provider. We only share our experiences. We are affiliates, this means that if you purchase something from a link or ad on this site we may receive a small commission. This in no way affects the price you pay.
What do you do to take care of your heart?
Do you know anyone who has been warned of heart disease but then got healthier by making the necessary lifestyle changes?
Please share your experiences in the comment section below.