February is National Heart Health Month. Taking care of your heart is vitally important but something that most people tend to overlook. This month provides the perfect opportunity to increase awareness of what you can do to help prevent heart disease and lead a healthier, happier life.
Here are four ways that a caregiver or anyone taking care of a loved one can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and help individuals who have suffered a heart attack.
1. Exercise. Physical activity is often linked to better heart health. You don’t have to do anything strenuous in order to exercise. You can take a gentle yoga class, go for daily walks around your neighborhood, go for a swim, play at the park with grandchildren, play a round of mini golf with loved ones or even dance in your living room. Not only will participating in physical activity contribute to protecting your heart, but it can also help combat high blood pressure and diabetes. Start with something simple, such as walking for 15 minutes a day, if you don’t exercise regularly. Monitor your body, go slow, and be careful not to strain yourself with exercises that may be too intense for you. Always follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations when it comes to exercise.
2. Increase Your Nut Intake. If you do not have a nut allergy, snacking on almonds or walnuts can be very beneficial for your heart. Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids which can help reduce inflammation and protect against heart disease. Almonds can reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure. Additionally, both of these nuts contain unsaturated fats, fiber and protein which can help promote healthy blood cholesterol levels.
3. Eat Lots of Fruit and Vegetables. We know that we need fruits and vegetables to stay healthy but this is especially true when trying to maintain heart health. Eating at least two servings of fruits and vegetables a day can help lower cholesterol, fight free radicals (which damage cells) and reduce inflammation. Consider snacking on berries, pears, melons, kiwi or apricots to boost your immune system and overall heart health. Some other excellent daily snack options are steamed broccoli, steamed carrots, a salad made with spinach and grilled asparagus. Additionally, try including whole grains, lean meats and beans in your diet, to strengthen cardiovascular health.
4. Participate in Stress Reducing Actives. Stress can escalate blood pressure and lead to a variety of unhealthy habits. We all deal with stress to a certain extent, but in order to help manage it and protect your heart, try finding activities you can consistently do that bring you peace. These activities can include reading, singing, baking, starting a garden, drawing, or getting regular massages. Reducing caffeine intake and getting more sleep have also been tied to lower stress levels.By focusing on these practices during National Heart Health Month, as well as moving forward, you will be able to take better care of yourself and help keep heart diseases at bay.