February is American Heart Month and a great time to check in about your heart health.
Cardiovascular/heart disease is responsible for one in every four deaths in the United States. It also contributes to other serious consequences in the form of heart attack and stroke.
If you are already under the care of a heart doctor, make sure to keep up with your regular appointments and medication. Or, if you have a family history of heart disease, but are unsure of your potential risks for it, now is a good time to speak with a physician about preventative measures.
One thing that most cardiovascular experts agree on is that everyone’s heart can benefit from eliminating stress.
Both mental and physical stress can have negative effects on the heart in how it functions and elevates blood pressure to dangerous degrees. Stress also triggers unhealthy behaviors such as overeating, smoking, or alcohol consumption which can adversely impact the heart too.
During the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, people everywhere have shouldered an unprecedented amount of stress. While there has largely been a return to normalcy in most aspects of life, there are still countless ongoing concerns that make us worry.
- Stay active. Physical activity provides mood-boosting benefits through releasing endorphins, reduces inflammation, and it can also help lower blood pressure, which puts less stress on your heart.
- Commit to relaxation. On the flip side of staying active, it’s important to learn to rest and recharge as much as possible. Getting enough sleep (eight hours is recommended for most adults), limiting screen time especially before bed, and finding tranquility in things like journaling, reading, meditating, or another calming hobby are all extremely restorative and essential to heart function.
- Connect with friends and family. Over the past two years it has been so important to check in with family and friends to fend off feeling isolated. And that’s still important. A good phone call or outing filled with laughter and thoughtful conversation can lift spirits and lighten the load of worries that we all carry.
- Eat right. A well-balanced diet, and proper hydration, can make you feel more refreshed and energetic throughout the day. Tackling your to-do list and challenges when you are filled up with lean proteins, fiber, and vitamin-packed fruits and veggies is much easier, and causes less stress, than when you are weighed down with unhealthy choices and feeling sluggish.
- Keep a positive attitude. Things are improving and reminding yourself of how far the pandemic situation has come since it first began can be helpful. Maintaining an upbeat outlook on life, and taking each day one at a time, is simple but steady advice that can help keep stress and anxieties at bay.
Other easy ways to improve your cardiovascular health can be found here.