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Love your Heart this Heart Month

February 29, 2016 - Lifestyle

Draw your attention inward, toward the body’s center and just a little to the left of your chest.  Put your hand there and feel that amazing beat.  Yes, that’s your heart the hardest working and most often least thought of muscular organ in the human body.

Consider the Amazing Human Heart

Your heart is about the size of your two fists and pumps about 100,000 times in one day, 35 million times in a year and more than 2.5 billion times in a lifetime.

Your heart works non-stop with a force similar to you squeezing a tennis ball as hard as you can as it pumps blood out to the body. The heart pumps blood through the aorta, which has the diameter of a garden hose and along the way fills capillaries so small that it takes ten of them to equal the thickness of a human hair.

Your body has about 6 quarts of blood circulating your body three times every minute. Your blood travels 12,000 miles in one day. The heart pumps about 1 million barrels of blood during an average lifetime.

Ways to Show your Heart how Much You Love and Appreciate it

Eat Healthy and Whole foods

To keep a healthy heart and your blood pumping through smooth and supple arteries, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a diet rich in nutritious wholefoods.  Whole foods offer vitamins and minerals, macro nutrients, fiber, and other nutrients that keep you feeling your best and help you to maintain a healthy weight.  Aim for fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, and non-tropical vegetable oils.  Eat no trans-fat, limit saturated fat, sodium, red meat, sweets and sugar sweetened beverages.  If choosing red meats select the leanest cuts available.  If you do not drink do not start, if you do, drink in moderation, 1 drink for women and 1 or 2 for men daily at most.

Your Heart likes it when you are Active

The AHA recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days a week for a total of 150 minutes, or at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic acidity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes or a combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity. Add in moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week.

In a pinch for time, think something is always better than nothing.  Think nothing takes as long as I think it will.  If being more active is new to you start small and build over time.  Try walking 10 minutes a day and increase by 5 minutes each week until you build up to 30 minutes 5 x a week.  Try some body weight resistance exercises and gradually add in light weights to begin your resistance work.

Being physically active does not have to be formal exercise, you may have an easier time being active if you approach activity as a way to have some fun and play in your life.  How do you like to move, what is fun to you?  What was fun to you in the past that you may revisit?  If you are in an area this winter where there is snow some fun ways to enjoy the winter season is to go tubing down a snowy hill, go ice skating, play hockey, cross country ski, or go snow shoeing.  If you and your dog are bored of the same city streets try a new path for your daily walks, you may find both you and your dog want to walk longer than before.  Partner up with others who also want to be active by joining a walking or hiking, canoeing, or kayaking club.  Maybe you will do 10 pushups and 10 jumping jacks each time you brush your teeth.  Who knows, with just a little thought and creativity you may find some inventive and fun ways to be more active each day.

Hearts Break when there is Smoke in the Room–Avoid Tobacco and Second Hand Smoke

Smoking robs you of some of your good cholesterol

Smoking temporarily raises your blood pressure

Smoking increases the blood’s clotting ability

Smoking makes it more difficult to exercise

Smoking is correlated with cardiovascular disease

If you are a smoker and want to quit there is good news out there. Did you know that almost  immediately after you quit smoking your lungs and other smoke damaged organs begin to repair themselves? The single number one behavioral change you can do for your heart, your lungs, and your overall quality of life is to stop smoking or using tobacco products. You can do it! Start with your primary care Physician for the many options available to you to help you kick this habit.

Give yourself and your Heart a break –Reduce Your Stress

It may be fair to say that most of us have experienced stressful events in our lives.  It is also fair to assume that due to the busy culture we live in that most of us experience some stress on a daily basis.  It is this day to day chronic stress that can affect our heart in negative ways possibly leading to the development and progression of coronary artery disease.  Unfortunately, when we are stressed we do not always make the best decisions sometimes we can revert to negative stress reducing habits like increased alcohol usage, less exercise and sleep, and over eating sweet and salty foods, making things even worse.

Take Charge of your Brain and It Will take Charge of Your Body–Positive Ways to Manage Stress 

Identify areas in your life that are causing you the most stress

Begin to create a plan to work toward a solution to stressful situations you can change

Build an acceptance around the stress that is not going away any time soon

Take time out each day to relax, take a play break, watch a funny clip and laugh

Get enough sleep

Exercise on most days of the week

Have healthy foods available to you

Prioritize your schedule. What takes up most of your time? Where can you delegate duties at home and at work?

It is helpful to learn to let go

Seek out the support of family and friends

Be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to be human and not superhuman

If caffeine stresses you more try switching to decaffeinated drinks

Practice a deep breathing relaxation exercise at least 5 minutes 1 x a day or before or after a stressful event

Try this deep breathing exercise created by the American Heart Association to help you relax and unwind anytime you need to calm down and de-stress

  1. Sit in a comfortable chair, feet flat on the floor, hands in your lap or in a reclining position, eyes open or closed; whatever you prefer
  2. Picture yourself in a peaceful place, on a beach with the warm sun on your face and sand between your toes, or walking in the forest with the scent of pine wafting in the crisp mountain air, maybe you are in a hot air balloon and floating about a majestic wheat field. Take your mind to your favorite happy place
  3. Inhale and exhale. Focus on breathing slowly and deeply. Put your hand on your stomach and feel your breath go in and out in a rhythmic pattern
  4. Continue to breathe slowly for 10 minutes or more, all the while focusing on that happy place in your mind. Do you feel the warmth of the sun, or can you smell the pine trees, imagine the feeling of freedom as you soar in the sky over a golden wheat field

Try to take at least five to 10 minutes every day for this deep breathing and imagery relaxation technique. With practice you can train your mind to go to its happy place anytime you need a moment do de-stress.

On Line Article Sources:

(2015, March) How Cigarettes Damage Your Body.

Retrieved from www.heart.org

2014, Feb.)  American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults.

Retrieved from www.heart.org

(2015, August) The American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations

Retrieved from www.heart.org

2014, June) Four Ways to Deal with Stress.

Retrieved from www.heart.org

Cleveland Clinic. (2016, January).  Stress & Heart Disease.

Retrieved from www.myclevelandclinic.org

(2015, January) Heart Facts.

Retrieved from www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/heart/heartfacts.html

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