February is American Heart-Healthy Month, and we want to share our favorite ways to keep your heart happy and healthy. Get up, grab your SUAVS, and let’s go!
1. Exercise is Good for Your Heart.
It is no secret physical activity is good for your heart. You don’t need to be a marathon runner or bodybuilder to see the benefits. But, the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes a day of exercise to help keep your heart strong.
Our favorite ways to move and exercise:
Take a Walk to Keep Your Heart Happy
A walk a day keeps the doctor away. Walking is a great form of cardiovascular exercise. Some of the benefits of walking include reducing your risk of a heart attack, lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, and raising (good) HDL cholesterol. It also helps improve your mood.
Our favorite ways to take a walk include: Hiking local trails. Walking around the neighborhood. Meeting up with a friend for a walk at the park. Walking to the store. Be sure to bring water, your favorite SUAVS, and a phone or fitness watch to keep track of your steps so you can continue to improve each time you hit the pavement.
How Strength Training Helps your Heart
Your heart is a muscle. Like any other muscle, it is important to train it. While you can't lift a weight with your heart, you can train your body and reduce fat and increase lean muscle. Lean muscle helps improve blood circulation and lessen pressure on your arteries. It also helps reduce the risk of a heart attack. We recommend three days a week.
Stretching may seem like it's only helping your muscles and flexibility, but it actually has so many additional benefits such as increasing your blood flow, lowering your blood pressure and decreasing stiffness in your arteries.
Each of these individually is great for your heart, but a combination of stretching, building muscle strength and regular cardio will ensure you maximize your overall health.
2. How Food Can Help your Heart.
You probably already know by now that what you eat impacts your entire body. Fried, greasy, and fatty foods are not good for you, especially your heart. Over time, these foods build-up and can clog your arteries making your heart work harder to pump blood. Clogged arteries can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and other coronary issues. While some of those foods are delicious, always remember moderation is key.
What foods are good for your heart? According to the American Medical Association, some of the best foods for your heart include:
Whole grains such as oatmeal and brown rice
Leafy greens like spinach and kale
Good fats and protein such as Avocados, almonds, walnuts, salmon and tuna
Legumes including pinto beans, garbanzo beans, and lentils
Dark chocolate (cue in drool emoji)
Try incorporating some of these items into your daily diet and limiting those that can harm you.
3. A Happy Soul = A Happy Heart
Reducing stress can keep you and your heart happy. How? When you are stressed, your body releases a nasty hormone called cortisol. This hormone can do a lot of nasty things to your body, including raising your blood pressure, which is not good for your heart.
A few ways to reduce stress:
Exercising. As the quote from Legally Blonde says, "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you Happy." And in moments of high anxiety, we also enjoy taking a walk outside to blow off some steam and breathe in some fresh air.
Smiling also helps keep you happy, calm and reduces stress. Did you know that smiling releases a cocktail of feel-good neurotransmitters including endorphins, dopamine and serotonin.
Other ways to stay happy, besides exercise, include doing something you love like a hobby, meditation, and our favorite: writing notes or sending a heart warming message to friends and family. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, now is a great time to send little notes of appreciation to the important people in your life. Not only will you put a smile on your face, but theirs as well.
Be sure to share these tips with a friend, preferably on a nice long walk in your comfy SUAVS.