Did you know February is National Heart Health Month?
It's a great time to explore explore the three simple yet powerful ways you can support a healthy heart and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease!
You may be surprised to learn that heart diseases, such as high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack, are the number one killer of men and women in the U.S.
But there is good news: you can improve your odds -- starting right now today -- support a healthy heart and thereby reduce your health risk. And it's easier than you might think.
#1: Eat Healthy.
You've heard it before, because it's true. A well-balanced diet delivers essential vitamins and minerals, supports healthy body function, and a healthy waistline too. All key factors for reducing risk of heart disease.
But where do you start? Studies show you get more bang for your health buck by consuming a balance of lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats along with plenty of fruits and vegetables. And don't worry, eating better doesn't mean you have cut out all the foods you love! Practicing healthy portion sizes and being mindful of added sugars, salt and 'bad' fats (aka saturated and trans fats) will help you give your body the nutrients it needs while leaving room for fun too!
The key is to know what you're eating. By reading those nutrition labels you're better able to make the best food choices for you, your health and your goals. Keep in mind the ingredients listed first, are the larger quantities, so if added sugars, salts and fats show up first, that's the bulk of what you're getting... not the whole grains or protein listed toward the end of the list.
Look for simple level ups. Try swapping whole milk for a low-fat or non-fat option to save on sugar and fat, steer toward leaner proteins like chicken, fish and legumes, limiting consumption of red meat, and try using olive oils and coconut oils in place of butter, margarine or heavy creams and sauces when cooking. These are great examples of simple swaps that can help you level up your day to day food habits without sacrificing loads of flavor.
Other simple ways you can begin to reduce added sugars, salts, and 'bad' fats include reducing the amounts of processed food, alcohol, and fast food consumed each week, opting to cook more meals at home and have some simple grab-and-go snacks on hand.
For more ideas, check out my 7 Ways To Eat Healthier Today.
You know it does a body good, but it goes much deeper than that! Your heart is a muscle, and just like any other muscle in the body it benefits from regular physical activity. But what many people don't realize is that consistent exercise is not just good for boosting muscle, it has been shown to help reduce risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. All of which put you at high risk for heart disease.
And as you may have guessed, these benefits are even greater when practiced with other healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as a healthy diet, and reducing daily stress.
But how much exercise do you need? The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise five days a week. Sound like a lot? Break it up into manageable bit size chunks. As I like to tell my clients, "10 minutes always trumps no minutes!" In my experience, people spend a ton of time thinking about it rather than just doing it. The quickest way to make it happen is to simply lace up, get up and MOVE!
Make it FUN. Getting in daily exercise doesn't have to feel like a chore... it can be a reward! If you like yoga, do yoga. Enjoy being outdoors? Go for a walk, bike ride or hike. Love feeling strong and fit? Lift some weights. There are all sorts of ways to get moving. Try a few different types of exercise and soon you'll find your stride!
#3: Reduce stress.
Stress is a killer. Literally. Chronic daily stress wears on your physical, mental and spiritual health. And over time this adds strain your heart. How do you know if your stress level is running a bit too high? When was the last time you felt or even said "I'm Stressed!!" That's a good place to start. And if you find you're feeling that way frequently, it's time to explore a few ways to combat it with healthier habits.
How can you begin to reduce the amount of stress in your day-to-day life? Mindful practices encourage being in the moment, rather than focusing on the stress of the past or worrying about the future, which is typically where most of our stress lies. Practices such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and journaling have all been found to greatly reduce stress. And the best part is you don't need to devote hours to reap the benefits. In just 10 minutes a day you can make a positive impact on your health.
Engaging in regular mindful practice will help you begin to see things more clearly, helping you to reframe your perspective, see the positive, and problem solve with greater clarity.
And if that's not great enough, studies also show regularly leaning on stress reduction practices can help lower blood pressure, reduce muscle tension, and even produce a state of calm both in the present moment and during future times of stress. Seems like some pretty good reasons to Zen out to me!
Making healthy changes can feel daunting and overwhelming when you're first starting out. Start by making one small change, such as drinking more water, swapping sugary cereal for oats, or moving your body for 10 minutes a day. It may not seem like a lot, but it all adds up! And one healthy choice often leads to another, so each small step you take, you're more likely to be inspired to take another. Keep going, you've got this!
Are you tired of starting over every Monday, hopping from diet to diet, wondering if you'll ever get it "right" so that you can lose the weight and become the best version of you? I’ve got you friend! Come join me inside my FREE women’s-only Facebook community: Eat Better with Coach Mindy. It's for busy women like you who are ready to lose weight, gain energy, get healthy and fit -- without restrictive diets or punishing food rules.