Devoting time to care for yourself each day can go a long way toward protecting the health of your heart. Simple self-care steps – such as taking a moment to de-stress, moving and exercising more, preparing healthier meals and not cheating on sleep – can all benefit your heart.
And that’s a good thing. Heart disease is largely preventable and focusing on improving your heart health has never been more important. Heart disease is a leading cause of death for women and men in the United States, and many Americans remain at risk of getting it, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. People with poor cardiovascular health are also at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Studies show self-care routines, such as taking a daily walk and keeping doctor’s appointments, will help keep our blood pressure in the healthy range and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
It may be easier than you think to “put your heart” into your daily routine. Each morning, look at your schedule and carve out 30 minutes daily for heart-healthy practices. Take an online yoga class, prepare a heart-healthy recipe, find a quiet space to medicate or schedule your bedtime to get at least seven hours of sleep. Then seek support from others, even if it’s online or via a phone call, to help you stick to your goals.
Consider these tips for help with prioritizing heart health every day:
Be mindful about your health. Regularly monitor your blood pressure or blood sugar if needed. Keep an eye on your weight to make sure it stays within or moves toward a healthy range. Being aware of your health status is key to making positive change.
Choose how you want to approach eating healthier. Start small by pepping up your meals with a fresh herb or spice as a salt substitute. Get adventurous and prepare a simple, new, heart-healthy recipe. Or go big by trying a different way of eating, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan, which is scientifically proven to lower blood pressure. DASH is flexible and balanced, and it includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry, lean meats, beans, nuts, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
Don’t waffle on your wellness. Move more, eat a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried, make a plan to quit smoking or vaping, or learn the signs of a heart attack or stroke. You could be having a heart attack if you have chest and upper body pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea or lightheadedness. You might be having a stroke if you have numbness in the face, arm, or leg; confusion; trouble talking or seeing; dizziness; or a severe headache.
Move your body every day. Being physically active is a major step toward good heart health. It is effective in strengthening the heart muscle, keeping weight under control and warding off artery damage from high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. As I’ve said before, you don’t have to be an athlete to stay active. Walking, yoga, resistance training with light weights or bands and stretching are good for your musculoskeletal foundation and your heart.
Treat yourself. Try making a dessert with fresh fruit and yogurt. Then stretch your imagination beyond food. Host a family dance party, take a few minutes to sit still and meditate, go for a long walk or watch a funny show. Laughter is healthy. Whatever you do, find a way to spend some quality time on yourself.
Engage with friends and family. Remember to take care of your mental health, too. Two of the main hurdles to self-care are depression and a lack of confidence, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. If your mental health gets between you and your fabulous self, take action to show your heart some love. Reach out to family and friends for support or talk to a qualified mental health provider.
Spread the word. Inspire others to take care of their own hearts. Talk about your self-care routine with loved ones or share it with friends on social media platforms. Having social support and personal networks can make it easier to get regular physical activity, eat nutritious foods, reach a healthy weight and quit smoking.
We hope these tips are helpful. And for help with living a pain-free life, call us for a consultation appointment. At The Barr Center for Innovative Pain & Regenerative Therapies, our innovative and comprehensive pain therapies include interventional spinal procedures, sports medicine, regenerative medicine, functional medicine and mind/body medicine. Since 1988, we have served more than 200,000 patients suffering from painful musculoskeletal conditions.
You can learn more about heart health from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute by visiting www.nhlbi.nih.gov. If you need help finding additional resources to help you cope with stress, talk to a healthcare provider. Seek urgent care if you can’t cope at all or have suicidal thoughts.
Resources are also available at nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help.