Well, I still can’t believe how quickly January flew by, and now, it’s nearly the middle of February! Of course you can’t look anywhere the past few weeks without running into hearts of all kinds. Heart balloons, cute, cuddly white teddy bears holding puffy red satin hearts, and oh, of course: “Sweetheart Conversation Hearts:”Be Mine, Hugs, Sweet Pea and Too Cool … are a few favorites that I remember … (sadly I now realize they are not a vegan candy … LOL I will survive ).
But I want to wish you all a Happy Valentines Day this Friday! And with that in mind I thought it would be fun to give you five tips on how you can be good to yourself, be good to your heart!
1. Quit smoking AND PLEASE don’t take up smoking. No butts about it, smoking is just a nasty, addictive habit. It’s destructive and has been identified as the single most preventable cause of disease and premature death in the nation. Sadly, it appears that more and more young people are taking up smoking. Smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD}, peripheral vascular disease (PVD), and coronary heart disease (CHD). And, for people with a history of CHD, cigarette smoking is also a risk factor for sudden cardiac death.
2. Eat well. Be good to your heart by working toward and maintaining a healthy weight. The most optimal diet is a vegetable-based diet (not grain-based or animal-based) which is packed with nutrients and low in saturated fat. Vegetables and beans provide superior nutrients. Indulge yourself and eat your berries: Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries—whatever berry you like best—are full of anti-inflammatories, are great for your vascular health and reduce your risk of heart disease. Be sure to include healthy fats from nuts and seeds which are indispensable for cardiovascular health. And remember DARK chocolate is good for your heart. Dark chocolate – at least 70 percent cocoa – reduces blood pressure and it reduces the LDL (the bad) cholesterol. It only takes 6.7 grams a day, which is not much … the average chocolate bar is 100 grams, so less than a half a bar consumed during the week will do the trick.
3. Shun the salt. The research has proven that salt is a contributor to coronary heart disease. Many say they don’t use the salt shaker at the table not realizing that most of their high salt intake comes from processed foods and their favorite fast-foods. To maintain good health, our body only needs ⅕ of a teaspoon daily. The recommendation is not more that 1 teaspoon per day. I believe it’s better to strive for the ⅕ and use other seasonings for flavor other than salt.
3. Exercise: You don’t have to be an Olympic Star to benefit from exercise. As little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise like brisk walking will benefit your heart; any of the aerobic activities such as walking, running or swimming or dancing will work the heart and help keep it robust get out there and so something that raises your heart rate, burns some calories. Yes, we all have busy schedules and hectic lifestyles, and fitting in a daily workout can be an overwhelming thought. However, it’s important to remember that exercise doesn’t have to be done all at once to be beneficial.
4. Reduce your stress by “unwinding” after a busy day. Engaging in activities like knitting, crocheting, quilting, or putting together jigsaw puzzle. Find something that you enjoy doing and allow yourself some downtime. For me, I love to be in the garden, I love to go for walks, I love acting on the stage and participate in shows at my local theater. Do what you love!
5. Put yourself first. There is only one you and you need to be good to yourself. Yes, I know it’s hard for most of us to do things for ourselves before we do for others. But if you take the time to sit and read a good book, spend time with a friend, or take a hike along a gorgeous mountain trail on a beautiful day it will be good for your heart. And you deserve that.