Updated: Oct 8
February is Healthy Heart Month time and a great time to explore those simple ways you can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease! Did you know that cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack are the number one killer of men and women in the U.S..... that is staggering! Fortunately I have good news, there are 3 things you can do now to reduce your risk of heart disease in the future and support a strong and healthy heart.
Your heart is a muscle, and like any other muscle in the body it benefits from regular physical activity. But did you also know that consistent exercise can actually help reduce your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, which are all risk factors of heart disease? And as you may have guessed these benefits are even greater when practiced with other healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as eating healthfully, which helps us also maintain a healthy weight. So how much exercise do you need to reap these benefits? The American Heart Association recommends 30min. of moderate to vigorous exercise 5 days a week. Sound overwhelming? Break it up into manageable chunks, Got 10 Minutes?
Relying on well balanced nutrition enables us maintain a healthy weight. Some basic guidelines include opting for lean proteins, incorporating whole grains, consuming more fruits and vegetables, utilizing healthy fats, and drinking water throughout the day. Understanding portion sizes is also an important part of establishing healthy eating behaviors. Did you know that many of today’s portion sizes are actually triple what they used to be? Reading nutrition labels and understanding how much of something equals a single serving size will help you make better choices while holding you accountable to how much food you are actually consuming. Simple swaps, such as replacing whole milk with a low-fat or non-fat milk option, relying on lean proteins such as chicken, fish, and legumes in place of red meat, and using olive oil and coconut oil in place of large amounts of butter, margarine or heavy creams are great ways to support a healthy waistline while obtaining quality nutrients.
Minimize the consumption of processed foods and save on empty calories. Limiting your consumption of processed foods, which are typically loaded with sugar, salt, added fillers and preservatives, will help you minimize empty calorie consumption while also supporting healthy body function. And finally, it is important to note that all calories are not created equal – 100 calories of fresh steamed vegetables is not the same as 100-calorie pack of cookies! The body has use for those vegetables, soaking up their essential vitamins and minerals and putting them to work, but it doesn’t hold that same value for the ingredients found in a 100-calorie pack of cookies. Focus more on the where those calories are coming from rather than the amount of calories themselves.
Chronic daily stress wears on your health - physically, mentally, and spiritually! Over time this adds strain your heart. Explore ways you can actively reduce the amount of stress in your life and implement healthy coping tools and techniques to help minimize the influence stressors have on your health. Try activities that emphasize mindfulness and encourage living in the moment, such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and journaling. When we focus our energy on the present rather than worrying about the past or future, we are better able to clarify the true cause of our stress and explore viable solutions that enable us to manage much more effectively.
Another great benefit of mindful practices is they induce a state of calm that helps us to see things more clearly, enabling us to reframe our perspective, see the positive, and realize what is within vs. outside of our control. How great is that? Learning to see and appreciate the good things in your life and find joy in life's simple pleasures increases feelings of happiness! Studies show that regularly engaging in stress reduction practices can also help lower blood pressure, reduce muscular tension, and even produce a state of calm both in current and future times of stress.
Making healthy changes can feel overwhelming, especially if you have several to make. Remember to start small and take it one change, one step, one challenge at a time. As you become comfortable and confident in one area you will find it is easier to tackle the next.
Choose meaningful and lasting changes that are also realistic to support your lifestyle, for example going from no exercise at all to adding an hour a day of exercise 4 days a week may be a bit much, or eliminating whole food groups that have been a regular part of your diet for years. Instead start with realistic goals and an appropriate plan of action, such as adding 2 days a week of 30-60min. of exercise for 4 weeks, or swapping one sweet treat a day for a healthier alternative - these kinds of swaps will set you up for success because they feel much more manageable.
Healthy eating begins with healthy food choices. You don’t need a chef's culinary skill to create nutritious, heart healthy meals you will love. As you learn what to look for at the grocery store, restaurants, workplace and any other eating occasion, you'll feel empowered to make healthier choices.
Inside this FREE guide I will share 14 nutritious and delicious foods to help you eat heart healthy...
Reduce your risk of disease
Support healthy body function
Empower healthy food habits
Support a healthy waistline
Boost your nutrition