Is your heart getting all the TLC it needs? If not, February, American Heart Month, is the ideal time to commit to giving your heart more love and attention. Here are five ways to spoil your body’s most important muscle—and keep it pumping strong.
1. Take your heart for a walk. Staying active by simply putting one foot in front of the other is one of the easiest ways to help protect your heart. Walking is free, simple to do and there’s a low risk of injury.
“Most adults should aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intense activity, such as brisk walking, at least five days a week,” says John A. Scherschel, MD, FACC, FHRS, electrophysiologist and president of Prairie Cardiovascular. But if you’re pressed for time, you can break that up into three 10-minute workouts. Get a doctor’s OK before you start a walking program if:
You have a chronic health problem like diabetes or high blood pressure.
You’re over 40 and haven’t been active in a while.
2. Feed your heart smart snacks. Instead of snacks packed with unhealthy fats, sugar or salt, try heart-friendly options like these:
Whole-grain toast with peanut or almond butter.
Cherry tomatoes dipped in hummus.
Whole-grain crackers with canned tuna or salmon.
A fruit or veggie smoothie.
Fat-free or low-fat popcorn.
Fat-free or low-fat yogurt topped with berries.
3. Test your heart. “High blood cholesterol can raise your risk of heart disease, a heart attack or a stroke,” says Dr. Scherschel. “But it usually doesn’t cause symptoms, which is why all adults 20 and older need their cholesterol tested on a regular basis.” Ask your doctor how often to get yours checked.
4. Stress your heart less. When tension mounts, talk out problems with a trusted friend, family member or counselor. And try to replace negative thoughts with positive ones—for example, replace “I’ve really messed up,” with “Everybody makes mistakes,” or “I can’t do this,” with “I’ll give it my best shot.”
5. Tend to your heart with thanks. Research shows that practicing gratitude is good medicine for your heart and health. It can lower blood pressure and boost your immune system, and it can help you engage in healthy behaviors. To feel more thankful, try keeping a gratitude journal. Look for your blessings—large and small—and write them down.
Sources: American Heart Association; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
For more information, visit www.prairieheart.org.