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I can’t believe January has come and gone and now it’s time for the month of love! Before you start sighing, let me tell you, February isn’t just for chocolates, oversized stuffed animals, and bouquets of roses – it’s also time to promote healthy heart habits to keep your ticker on track and in shape. What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than pampering your heart?

Did you know, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States (for men and women), with high blood pressure being the main culprit for stroke and heart attacks? The good news is heart disease is largely preventable, and there are so many little things you can do to reduce your risk. In the spirit of setting SMART goals, here are four that can help you keep your heart healthy – during February and all year round.

1. Move a little more.

You don’t have to start running marathons to have a healthy heart; moving just a little more each day can help vastly improve your heart health. Physical activity can lower your risk of heart disease and make your heart smile by improving your blood flow, lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as giving you more stamina and heightening your ability to cope with stress. For major health benefits, aim for at least 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours per week of activity. This chunk of time can be chipped away with small increases in activity per day. For example:

  • Take the stairs. Even if you’re walking up one flight, that can add up throughout the day!
  • Park it. Purposefully park your car farther away than usual, giving you more steps and more activity points!
  • Get up from your desk for 10 minutes. Take a break, walk around the room. When nature calls, choose a bathroom on a different floor. It can add a bunch more steps to your activity goal.

Small activities can add up to big heart successes!

2. Eat, sleep, repeat.

We all know diet has a huge impact on the healthiness of your heart. Try cooking at home three times a week, focusing on lower-sodium foods like veggies and lean meats, such as chicken or fish. An easy rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with veggies and only one-fourth (or less) with protein. Swap out that extra pinch of salt with some dried or fresh herbs and spices for a delicious and heart-happy meal. Don’t forget to bring the leftovers for lunch the next day!

Be sure you’re getting a full eight hours of sleep a night as lack of sleep can greatly affect your heart health. I know with all our busy schedules getting enough sleep can be the hardest goal to meet. To start small, try going to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual. When you’re in bed, read a book instead of looking at your phone; screen time before bed hinders the hormones in our bodies that trigger sleepiness. It’s also helpful to eat dinner earlier in the evening to give yourself enough time to digest before you hit the hay.

3. Kick butt – literally.

I’ve already gotten fired up about this topic, but it’s so important I’ll say it again (and again), quit smoking! Despite all the studies out there about the health risks of smoking, it’s shocking to learn even in 2017, 36.5 million people continue to light up. I understand how difficult it is to break a habit as addictive as smoking, but because it’s February, take some time and really think about your heart. Make goals, quit with a friend, reward your success!

4. Trust the pros.

Make an appointment to see your doctor and schedule a physical. Here at Businessolver, we recently did a companywide blood pressure check, but that’s not a stand-in for your annual physical. Blood pressure can fluctuate due to diet, stress, and activity levels so regular checkups are necessary to keep in contact with your heart.

Now, give yourself a hug and remember to reconnect with your heart this February!

Read more from Tracey on how to promote employee health

Tracey Orman

Written by Tracey Orman

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