I take your heart seriously. Heart disease is the number one killer of women (and total deaths in the United States) and whether you have been diagnosed with heart disease or not, that big red valentine in your chest needs love and attention. February is American Heart Health month and I wanted to spend a minute empowering you to take control of your heart’s wellness. So now I present to you 5 important things you can DO to keep your ticker in tip top shape.
#1: Eat Heart Healthy Foods
I am beginning with foods because when I think of hearts, I think of love, and when I think of love, I think of a universal love . . . the love of food! We all know by now that there is good cardio research about how intimately connected the heart and food are. All of us should eat as though we have heart disease — or will have heart disease — (even though there is no glory in prevention!) because statistics tell us that 2,200 of us are dying every day from it. Clients often come to me knowing what not to eat: sodium, processed foods, trans fats. I want to focus on what you SHOULD eat: yes, yes, fruits, veggies, healthy fat etc… But how can you start to make a difference NOW? Commit to eating seeds or nuts, avocado or olive oil, fish or flax and greens x 2 daily!
#2: Slim Yourself
There is nothing wrong with a little vanity. Wanting to look your best is not a crime, and as a health educator, I know that if I can get my clients to look and feel a little slimmer, their hearts will benefit tremendously. Carrying around extra pounds makes the heart less efficient, more lethargic and compromises its ability to work. As few as a 10 pound loss can reduce cholesterol levels, decrease blood pressure, decrease the risk of heart attack and often reduces the need for medications. You know I’m leading up to exercise, and that can be a total turnoff for people with a lot of weight to lose. Well, then, don’t call it exercise! And, start with this: stand up when you would otherwise be sitting down during commercial breaks (or waiting for a doctor’s appointment.) You burn 32% more calories standing than you do sitting. C’mon we all can do this! To see strategies to get more physical activity in your life, I recommend this workout
#3: Know the Research
We’ve studied the heck out of fiber, sodium and fats. We now know the importance of a high fiber, low sodium diet that is rich in good fats (mono and poly unsaturated) and limited in trans and saturated fats to optimize your ticker. Scientists are also taking a close look at the cellular level. Really exciting new research is uncovering the role of ubiquinol in heart health. Ubiquinol is the converted form of CoQ10, and it is found to promote heart health and maintenance of cardiovascular health. CoQ10 is found in eggs, beef, fish, raw vegetables like spinach, cauliflower, and broccoli, and unprocessed grains. Found in every cell of the human body, and in highest concentrations in the heart, CoQ10 and ubiquinol levels diminish with age. Lower levels of this important antioxidant makes cells more vulnerable to cell damage. Damaged cells don’t work as well and heart disease results. Be on the lookout for the buzz about ubiquinol and learn more: http://ubiquinol.org/ubiquinol-vs-coq10
#4: Snack wisely
Experts agree that most Americans have to change their eating habits to achieve a healthy heart. We tell people to eat breakfast, choose more fruits and vegetables, limit unhealthy fats and adjust portions. We also tell people to snack — in an effort to pull away from extreme hunger and overeating large meals, a little meal between meals is encouraged. As someone who looks at other people’s food choices all day long, I can tell you that everyone has their own unique habits and needs, but most people love the permission to snack. There is no such thing, however, as a “snack” food. Snacks should be real food just like breakfast, lunch or dinner. A slice of turkey wrapped around asparagus or a hard boiled egg are great choices. Still, if you need something that is portable and feels like an indulgence without derailing your meal plan, FIT Popcorn is a great choice.
#5: Take Stock in your Stock
Knowledge is power. Take a minute to assess your heart health this month. Pull together the information you need to evaluate if you are at risk for cardiovascular disease. You should have current lab work that includes your cholesterol information. Take your blood pressure. Dig into your family history to see who may have heart disease. Evaluate your alcohol consumption and of course, QUIT smoking if you smoke. Load it all into the free database here:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease-risk/HB00047 and if you are at risk, see your physician for active care or preventive and baseline information.
Happy American Heart Health month. I hope you are empowered to be your heart healthiest!