The classic American theme for February is centered around love, hearts and celebrating Valentine’s Day. Fitting with the theme, February is Heart Health Awareness Month. So, in honor of love and hearts, I’ve put together a list of 5 simple, holistic tips to keep your heart healthy and happy.
- Relax. The act of relaxation promotes a physiological response in our body which stimulates the release of endorphins, those feel-good hormones. Endorphins counter act stress by decreasing the overabundance of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline. A reduced level of stress hormones and increased level of endorphins promotes relaxed blood vessels, improving blood flow and oxygenation to your heart. Find a relaxing activity you enjoy and set aside time each day to enjoy the art of relaxing. Activities for relaxing may include, practicing meditation or yoga, taking a nap, laughing, spending time with a pet or loved one, deep breathing, journaling or reading, or simply stopping to smell the roses. However you choose to relax, you will decrease stress hormones and promote a healthy, happy heart.
- Be Active. Exercising is an excellent way to promote heart health. Aim for 30-60 minutes a day on most days to help control your weight and reduce the risk of developing other heart straining conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. You can break up physical activities into 10 minute intervals, 3-6 times a day or aim to take 10,000 steps a day. Activities like bedside nursing, gardening, walking the dog, taking the stairs, playing with children, walking, sex, hiking and housekeeping count towards your goal!
- Nourish Your Heart. Eat a heart healthy diet by eating foods low in cholesterol and low in salt to help prevent high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease. Include organic fruits and vegetables, non-GMO whole grains, lean meats and plant proteins in your heart healthy diet. By reducing your intake of saturated and trans-fat foods, you will reduce your risk for coronary artery disease by keeping blood cholesterol levels in check. Avoid excess caffeine, sodas and alcohol to keep your heart healthy. Instead of pre-packaged or fast food, opt for whole foods in their natural form. Remember that eating heart healthy foods is not a “fad diet,” it is a way to nourish and love your heart.
- Just Say No (to smoking). There’s no doubt that the chemicals in cigarettes damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to the narrowing of your arteries, significantly increasing your risk for a heart attack. Smoking can also increase your heart rate and blood pressure forcing your heart to work harder to supply oxygen not only to itself but also your vital organs and the rest of your body. Give your heart some love and avoid smoking!
- Practice Gratitude. Last but definitely not least and probably most importantly, practice gratitude. This is powerful energy medicine. When we openly express feelings of gratitude, compassion and love our heart rhythm actually changes and becomes smooth and harmonious. A smooth, harmonious heart rhythm promotes a balanced nervous and cardiovascular system. A balanced circulatory system creates positive changes in heart rate variability thus decreasing your risk for fatal heart rhythm irregularities. Practice gratitude by stating out loud what you are thankful for or start a Gratitude Journal to you simply write down what you are grateful for each day.
If heart disease runs in your family, remember to get regular medical check ups to screen your risks for heart disease. Visit American Heart Association for more details and information. Screenings include checking your blood pressure and heart rate, monitoring your weight and body mass index, watching your cholesterol levels and risks for diabetes. Maintaining a holistic, heart healthy life style will keep your heart healthy and happy.
Use the month of February to begin heart healthy habits that will last a lifetime! Please share these tips with your family, friends, patients and community.
Women experience heart attacks differently than men. While many men experience classic “chest pain,” women do not. Women most often experience atypical symptoms like nausea, feeling lightheaded and/or extreme fatigue. Scripps now has the Women’s Heart Center, where integrative and holistic heart care is provided for women, by women. Learn more about Women’s Heart Health at Women Heart.
Love Your Heart
This Valentine’s Day, take time to love your heart. Scripps Health, in partnership with San Diego OASIS and County of San Diego, will be providing free blood pressure screenings throughout the county to help San Diegans take charge of their own heart health.
The Love Your Heart event is part of the “Live Well San Diego” program, a regional wellness effort supported by a broad group of community partners dedicated to the health and well-being of our residents.
The Scripps Outreach Team will be at the following locations providing free blood pressure screenings on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
-Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Diego campus
4077 Fifth Ave., San Diego, CA 92103
-San Diego OASIS (Third floor of Macy’s in Mission Valley Mall)
1702 Camino del Rio N, San Diego, CA 92108
-OASIS Wellness Center
5500 Grossmont Center Drive, Suite 228, La Mesa, CA 91942