Life

Commit to be Fit: Are you taking care of your heart?

Home workout. (Dreamstime/TNS)
Home workout. (Dreamstime/TNS)

February is dedicated to raising awareness about heart disease and its prevention, and with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, now is a great time to reflect on the health of your heart. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The American Heart Association states that 1 in 4 Americans will die of heart disease and more than 1 in 3 adults will suffer with some form of cardiovascular disease.

Because of the novel coronavirus, taking our health for granted is a thing of the past. Although there are risk factors that we cannot control, like family history, age or gender, there are many factors that we can control when it comes to heart health, like diet, exercise and living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. The good news is that the American Heart Association reminds us that 80 percent of heart disease and stroke is within our control and can be prevented.

So, even if you already have heart disease, controlling and preventing additional risk factors is just as important. To help lower or manage your risk for heart disease:

• Manage your weight. It’s not just about fitting into your skinny jeans. Carrying extra weight strains your heart and often raises blood pressure.

• Exercise. Exercise is essential for living a heart-healthy lifestyle. For overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association suggests 30 minutes of aerobic activity five days per week and muscle-strengthening activity at least two days per week. If you struggle to find 30 consecutive minutes, no worries — you’ll get the same benefits if you divide your time into two or three 10 to 15 minute segments a day. Parents, children need at least 60 minutes of exercise every single day. Invite your children to do physical activity with you. Play tag, dance, go for walks, move between commercial breaks or do some fun YouTube kids aerobics/dance videos.

• Eat healthy. Remember it’s what you eat consistently that will make an impact on your overall health. The American Heart Association recommends a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes and non-tropical vegetable oils. Limit saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages.

• Control your cholesterol and blood pressure. Have annual blood work done and monitor your blood pressure in between doctor visits. Don’t skip this annual check-up, as prevention is the best medicine.

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• Avoid being sedentary. If you sit at a desk all day — even though you hit the elliptical that morning — you are at risk for heart disease, according to cardiologists. Find opportunities to stand, walk and move throughout the day.

• Manage stress. Listen to your self-talk. Instead of saying to yourself, “I’m having the worst day, there is so much to do.” Rephrase it: “I’m having some challenges today, and I will get through this one task at a time.” It’s amazing how your self-talk can escalate or minimize feelings.

• If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. One drink for women and two drinks for men. Monitor serving size. A serving size equals 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.

• Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.

Since February is about heart health, my next column is going to focus on the “heart health” of relationships. It’s important to note that the condition of your relationships will either help or hinder your overall health.

Kylie Alger is a certified wellness coach and co-owner of the Well-Woman: Body, Mind & Spirit. Comments: kylie@thewellwoman.org

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