February is American Heart Month, an easy thing to remember, given all the heart-shaped boxes in red and pink that we see every time we go to the store or turn on the TV.
While the heart symbolizes love, it's also something that symbolizes our overall health. So let's talk about the steps we can all take towards having a healthier heart.
1. Move. We're not suggesting you move to a tropical oasis where you relax all day (although that would probably help your heart!). No, we're talking about the advice we've all heard since we were kids: get out and move. Call it exercise, call it a brisk walk after dinner, call it dancing in the kitchen with your kids. Whatever you call it is fine, as long as you remember to do it.
As The New York Times reports, "Inactivity is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. However, exercise helps improve heart health, and can even reverse some heart disease risk factors."
The article goes on to say that people who maintain an active lifestyle lower their risk of developing heart disease by 45 percent.
The key to staying active is choosing activities you like, not ones you see as a chore. So if spinning and jogging aren't your cup of tea, that's OK. Find stuff you do like, and don't use weather as an excuse for not staying active. In the winter, trade in your sneakers for snowshoes if you live in snowier climates. If you prefer swimming year-round, invest in a gym that has a pool.
And keep in mind that little things like taking the stairs every day instead of the elevator, parking your car far away from the mall entrance, and, yes, even taking 10 minutes for an impromptu dance in the kitchen with your kiddos can make all the difference in the world.
Psst. Here's a great chart on the calories you'll burn doing 30 minutes of various exercises from hang gliding (yes, really) to slow dancing.
2. Watch what goes into your mouth. Yeah, yeah—we know. You've no doubt heard that you need to pay attention to your diet in addition to getting more exercise. And we all know "diet" can sound worse than many of those naughty four-letter words.
Here's the thing: don't say you're "going on a diet," because that, right there, can be deflating to your subconscious. Instead, think about making better choices. And don't try to change your behavior all at once. So instead of including chips with your lunch every day, substitute an apple three days a week. Once you get into that habit, add on other fun food challenges. Perhaps you add a vegetable, like spinach or broccoli, to your scrambled eggs in the morning. You get the idea.
These small, positive changes will become habits, and over time—say, three or six months—you can look back and see how much your diet has changed for the better (and hopefully how good you feel).
Need some help? Here are 21 ways to make your diet 100 percent easier.
3. Say "ohm." There's a lot to be said about taking time out and meditating. The American Heart Association talks about the many benefits of meditation, including lowering stress and the risk for cardiovascular disease.
The key is finding the right method for you and not getting caught up on whether you're doing it right. The truth is you can't really "do" meditation wrong. Any time you spend focusing on your breath, releasing negative thoughts, and fostering a calmer mental state is time well spent. So relax and just say "ohm.
4. Check out what some of our doctors at Total Access Medical have to say about heart health. First up, we have Dr. Perkins who talks about the importance of prevention in regards to heart disease:
And Dr. Pettinelli echoes these sentiments and discusses the collaborative approach that concierge medicine is famous for.
For information on how to create a healthier workplace for your heart and your colleagues, check out our free guide to fostering wellness where you work.