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611 Sherman Avenue East
Fort Atkinson, WI 53538
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Steps To Better Your Heart Health

Tiffany Tiffany February 14, 2019 0 Comments General Health

Check out these steps to ensure you're making heart health a top priority in your life

Happy February everyone!

When I think of February, I think of the Super Bowl, Valentine's Day, and Pitchers and Catchers reporting. As of lately, I'm thinking about the amount of "Wisconsin weather" we've had. In the "Health and wellness world", February is all about heart health.

Little side story here about hearts and their importance. During the months that school is in session, Fort HealthCare offers Pediatric Tours for local schools (kids in 1st and 2nd grade). They are able to come to the hospital for an afternoon and learn about what happens at a hospital. Where I come in, along with my dietician co-worker, Lisa, is the chit-chat about eating healthy and staying active. We do this by trying to be as interactive as possible. I thought my energy level was high, but these kids give me a run for my money. When talking about healthy lifestyles, we always bring up our hearts. We ask the kids something along the lines of "Do you need your heart?" Is it important to keep it health and strong?" and we always get a collective shout-out of "YES!" or "Of course!" or my favorite, "Ummm... duh???".

From a young age, we know that our hearts are an important organ in our body. Hearts have the vital role of pumping blood to the different parts of our body. Without our heart, well, it wouldn't be good. Because of the sheer necessity of what our heart does, and the unfortunate prevalence of heart disease in America, American Heart Association began a campaign in February about heart health, and awareness surrounding it.

Heart health is not a "one-stop shop", but rather is a bunch of health-related lifestyle decisions that can be made daily. This ensures we are helping to keep our heart in tip-top shape. I'm pulling most of this information from the American Heart website, and I highly recommend you check it out. There's a ton of great sources and tidbits of knowledge that can be applied to anyone's life!

Nutrition

As I'm writing this blog on Valentine's Day, I can't help but have thoughts of cupcakes and chocolates dancing in my head. The truth is, we are constantly surrounded by temptations for less-than-nutritious food where we turn. It can be hard to make healthful decisions, and no one gets it right every single day. By making a conscientious effort to eat healthfully, you're helping to improve your blood work, receive all the vitamins and nutrients you need daily, and it may even help you shed a few unwanted pounds. Other tips and tricks for nutrition include:

  • Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet. Fruits and veggies are nutrient-dense, which means they carry a lot of the ‘good stuff’ for a small amount of calories. The more colors you incorporate, the more of a variety of those vitamins and minerals you’ll be incorporating into your diet.
  • Lean proteins are a great way to feel satisfied during a meal, and help to build your muscles. Great sources of lean proteins are chicken, turkey, lean cuts of beef, lentils, some grains such as quinoa, and egg whites.
  • Complex carbs give the body energy, and keep you movin’ and groovin’. While there’s a lot out there about carbs, complex carbs have lots of great nutrients, provide fiber, and again, that energy for the body. Think about incorporating whole-grain products into your diet with bread, pastas, tortillas and cereals.
  • One other heart-healthy nutritional tidbit I have is to think about limiting sodium in your diet. Sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, which can cause damage to your heart and the arteries in your body. Many food producers will sneak in sodium to the product either for flavor or to help with shelf-life, and you may not even know it! Always be checking the food labels of the foods you eat, and limit your daily intake to no more than 2300mg.
  • Sorry, Valentine’s Day candy is not on this list….:)

Physical Activity

Physical activity, or exercise, is great for the entire body, but especially for the heart. The recommended amount of 150 minutes of moderate activity (heart should be pumping!) comes out to just over 20 minutes a day. This is a great way to help with reducing stress, improving overall body image, weight management and heart health. Some other tips to help make exercise a part of your heart-healthy lifestyle are:

  • Find a type of physical activity that you enjoy, so it doesn’t feel like a chore, and you’re able to easily incorporate it into your lifestyle.
  • Find a friend, spouse or family member to join. It’s great when you have the accountability, and you can also have someone to go through it with you.
  • Get creative with exercise. Incorporate what you have at home or around you. If you have stairs at home, take a few minutes to walk a few flights of stairs. If you have dumbbells, find an upper body workout that you can do while watching your favorite show. Think: can I park further away at work, the store, the library and get a few more steps? Every little bit counts!

Stress Management

Ommmm...find your zen...It seems like EVERYONE has so much going on in their lives. Between work, school, kids, appointments, pets, etc. we need more than 24 hours in a day! It's important to keep your stress levels in check to avoid the potential health concerns that can come with chronic stress. Some of those stresses include sleep issues, anxiety, high blood pressure, depression and more. It can be hard to find time for yourself and stress management. A few ideas for stress management are:

  • Build out time each day for you. Whether it’s in the am, lunch, afternoon or before bed, make it a routine to slow down and do something for you. This could be reading, writing, meditating, taking a walk or sipping your favorite wine (not too much, or I’ll get in trouble for writing this!). Just find a way to de-stress and unwind.
  • Identify your stress, and problem solve ways you can tackle it head on, or help to make it feel more manageable. If your stress has taken over your life, it’s important to talk to your health care provider and potentially see a mental health professional to work together and work on the stress.
  • Sleep and stress go hand-in-hand, and if you are not getting enough (or quality) sleep, it may be time to either work on a sleep routine, or talk to your health care provider about ideas for getting your 7-9 hours.

Smoking/Alcohol

The last topic I want to address is about alcohol and smoking. I know 3 seconds ago you read my blurb about relaxing with a glass of wine so you might be thinking, "um, what?". While Consuming more than the recommended amount of alcohol a day can be detrimental to your health, an occasional drink or two is in moderation. While there is a little leeway with alcohol, there's really nothing good that comes from smoking and the negative effects on your health and on your heart. There are many resources available for individuals who smoke (many are free) and your health care provider can help determine the best route of action for you and quitting.

Heart health is something we can always work towards, and be making changes daily. While February is dedicated to awareness of heart disease and health of our heart, it really should be a year-round though. Much of heart disease is contributed to lifestyle factors, which is a daily decision we make. Hopefully you are thinking of what you can be doing today to help improve the health of your heart.

Remember, in the words of the 1st and 2nd graders on if your heart is important, "Um...DUH!".

Until next time!