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Valentine’s Day Guide: Tips for a Healthy Heart

The time is upon us when love is in the air! And whether you like it or not, red and pink hearts are all over the place. Let’s take some time to talk about the heart that matters most, all year round: the anatomical one inside your chest, likely not filled with bite-sized chocolates. Here are 5 heart-healthy tips to show yourself some love this Valentine’s Day.

  1. Eat a Well-Balanced Diet: No need for cleanses and fad diets. Focus on a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, plant-based proteins, lean meats, and low-fat dairy. Minimizing highly processed foods, added sugars, sodium, and alcohol consumption is also recommended. Gradually incorporating sustainable food and beverage swaps to embrace a healthier diet can lower your risk for heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, and maintain a healthy weight.
  2. Move Your Body: Our bodies were made for movement. Adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, and it is also recommended to incorporate 2 days of muscle-strengthening activities. Broken down, this equates to 30 minutes of brisk walking 5 days per week. If this seems like too much to take on all at once, don’t sweat it! Even if you don’t always reach those 150 minutes each week, you certainly won’t fail — some activity is better than none! The CDC has some helpful resources and visuals that can help you set your movement goals.
  3. Quit Smoking: Smoking causes damage to the heart and blood vessels and is a major cause of cardiovascular disease, the largest cause of death in the US. Even if you don’t smoke, exposure to second-hand smoke can cause heart disease in non-smokers as well. Research shows that within a year of quitting, the risk of heart disease drops dramatically, and within 5 years of quitting, smokers lower their risk of stroke to about that of a non-smoker. Quitting can be challenging, and there are many resources to help. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW, or visit cdc.gov/tips.
  4. Prioritize Sleep: Research indicates that the average adult needs about 7 hours of sleep each night, and more than a third of Americans admit to regularly getting less sleep than that each night. Poor sleep can contribute to various health problems, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Regular exercise and a good sleep routine can contribute to improved sleep quality. Exposure to natural light, especially earlier in the day, can also help you get better sleep. 
  5. Manage Stress: Experiencing stress is part of being human, so the goal is not to avoid stress altogether. In the short term, some stress can even be helpful, motivating you to meet a deadline or take care of an important task efficiently. However, chronic stress can take a toll, not only on your emotional and psychological health but also on your physical well-being. Stress can increase your risk for high blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Finding ways to decompress can be vital for your heart health.

Always be sure to talk with a health professional about any health concerns, and if you currently live with any health problems mentioned, be sure to take all medications as prescribed. And if there’s anything standing in the way of your movement goals, be sure to give your friendly neighborhood physical therapists at Action Potential a call today!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska: https://www.pexels.com/photo/medical-stethoscope-with-red-paper-heart-on-white-surface-4386467/

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