July 23, 2024

#3 It’s the BIG One!

Did you know that the month of February is designated as American Heart Month?  Back in the day, Redd Foxx played a heart attack for laughs on Sanford and Son, but joking about “the big one” is no laughing matter.  

You don’t have to look far to see that the traditional Valentine’s heart gets all the “love” this time of year, but how about we give a cheer for our “actual” hearts. You know…the wonder muscle that never stops – beating more than 100,000 times while pumping approximately 2,000 gallons of blood throughout our entire body EVERY SINGLE DAY of our life 24/7/365!

Stop and think about those numbers for just a tick.  No wonder my guy here is a little miffed…he’s doing all that work, and cutie-pie heart gets the holiday, the girl, a box of assorted chocolates and a lovable hand gesture.

But if there was ever a part of our body that deserves a lot of TLC it would be our heart. Let’s make today the day that we begin to treat our hearts with all the love it deserves in return for working so hard for us.

In recognition of American Heart Month, here’s 3 challenges you can begin THIS VERY DAY to keep your heart happy now and for years to come.

1️⃣ Start a Weight Management Plan

Keeping death at a respectable distance is a serious game and our heart is the MVP.  Get started on the path to improving heart health by losing some weight.  Carrying around excess weight makes our heart and cardio-vasculary system have to work MUCH harder, all the time, 24/7.  Any little thing we can do to help it continue to perform is in our best interest.  Losing even a little weight can greatly improve vascular function, lower blood pressure and improve metabolism.  Find a program that provides a roadmap to healthier eating along with a sensible exercise program and stick with it!  Get your spouse, partner or friend to “buy in” with you and keep each other accountable to making slow, steady progress.

2️⃣ Learn How To “Eat Clean”

Adopt eating habits that protect your heart. All of us meat lovers might cringe at the idea of fully committing to a “plant-based” diet, so how about we agree to back off just a bit and consider a “plant-friendly” diet?  An easy rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “how colorful is my plate.”  The various rich colors of fruits and vegetables provide powerful phytonutrients that reduce inflammation in our body and nourish our heart.  Incorporating more of them into our meals and snacks is one of the most impactful ways to shed some pounds and do right by our hearts.  The amazing thing about vegetables is that you can literally eat them in LIMITLESS amounts and not gain an ounce (loaded Mashed Potatoes notwithstanding 😉)  PLUS they provide all the vitamins and nutrients that serve the healthy functioning of our heart.  Without question, limiting fast food, processed meals and fatty red meat to once or twice a week and replacing that with leaner meats and seafood are small changes that make a BIG impact.  Get familiar with the Produce section of your grocery store or even better, frequent a local Farmer’s Market and load up on food that compliments a heart-healthy diet. 

3️⃣ Maximize the pumping power of your heart by exercising it every day

Choose a workout that you can stay consistent with. One of the very best is a structured walking plan.  For most people, it’s convenient, FREE, requires no additional equipment and is simple to stick to with just a small tweak to your daily routine.  The surgeon general has determined that walking 10,000 steps a day (approximately 5 miles) is equal in health benefits to a 30 minute daily workout routine.  If 10,000 steps per day is out of reach for you right now, don’t let that stop you.  Start where you’re at by committing to a 10 minute walk two or three times per day (yes, taking your dog for a walk counts.)  Make a game out of it.  A step tracker is a standard feature on any smartwatch or use an app on your phone to set reminders and gauge your progress.  Take this walking time to listen to music that motivates you or listen to an audiobook…the important thing is to stay hydrated, and stay committed to your plan.  Schedule a meet up with a friend and make it a win-win for both of you.  As your endurance builds, challenge yourself to a new step goal and keep close tabs on the positive changes you notice along the way.  The GREAT news is that a consistent walking routine has been proven to lower the risk of heart disease and Type II diabetes, reduce waist size, relieve stress and increase energy.  We’ll be talking more in depth about walking in the weeks to come, but as for right now, just make the decision to do it and get started.  For those about to walk, I salute you!

Until next time, let me leave you with this fun idea:  Double down on those new heart healthy-habits by getting in those daily steps while filling up a bag (or two!) at the Farmer’s Market.  Look at you living a healthy, active lifestyle…BRAVO!