25 Feb 2014

Why February is The Best Month for American Heart Month

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February is American Heart Month, and this year is its 50th year in a row.  Why February? Once you hear the answer it will seem obvious. See, for the first half of February, we’re surrounded by displays of hearts because of…you guessed it…Valentine’s Day.  Hearts meaning love. For everyone.

Piggybacking on the emotional focus of the heart for Valentine’s Day, the month of February was declared American Heart Month to draw attention to the physical aspects of the heart. Heart meaning health.  For everyone.

American Heart Month is a federally-declared initiative, and its first year was under Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidential term. Today, American Heart Month continues to gain publicity from the White House. For example, in honor of the 50th anniversary, President Obama issued a proclamation about how Americans should follow a few simple lifestyle tips on order to enjoy a “long and healthy life.” The government’s focus on a healthy heart has solid backing:  According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), “Cardiovascular disease – including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure – is the number one killer of women and men in the United States.”

The good news? Most cardiovascular diseases are preventable by lifestyle.  Although the majority of Americans are aware of this lifestyle advice, we still have to get out there and implement the tips. So here goes – call it a simplified review.

Exercise. Just do it. While at Rockaway you’re likely not training for the upcoming 10K, still, exercise is possible. Walk as briskly as you can. If walking’s difficult, do leg and arm lifts – 20 repetitions each, 2-3 times daily. Exercise keeps diabetes at bay as well. Do. Whatever. You. Can.

Diet. Use healthy oils (not saturated fats) and medium amounts of salt. Be sure to eat raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and good amounts of protein. Keep away from sugar highs – in our society, millions are officially diabetic, and the rest of us should consider ourselves pre-diabetic if we’re not careful.

Fresh Air. Keep breathing healthy. Your heart needs fresh oxygen, and staying inside doesn’t provide the best source. Get outside at least once/day for fresh air (the less polluted the better of course), even in the nippiest days of winter whenever possible. Likewise, crack a window at night for constant airflow.

Blood Pressure. Drink well and follow the advice above.

Smoking or heavy drinking. If you can quit on your own, do so now. If the “now” word makes you anxious, then it sounds like you need help. Get that help now – there’s no shame and plenty of professionals to assist you.

Keep a good weight. Obesity is a major cause of heart disease. A good rule of thumb is to stay below 20 lbs overweight.

Medications: If lifestyle changes are hard to implement, and/or aren’t doing the trick for you, your doctor will likely prescribe medications. Keep taking them on schedule – they can be life savers.

Stress. We all get stressed out at times – the question is how we handle it. If you feel your heart racing over issues in your life, utilize a relaxation technique to easily calm down and return your heart rate to normal.

Speaking of stress, the best remedy is often not physical – it’s emotional. When we feel loved and supported, our stress levels are lower. So there you have it. Keeping up your heart’s health is a symbiotic relationship whereby the physical and the emotional are intertwined.  When you’re healthy physically, you can love better, and when you feel love, you automatically feel healthier. The “heart of the matter” is to go for both – combine Valentine’s Day lovin’ with a routine healthy lifestyle, and you vastly decrease your chances of cardiovascular problems.  American Heart Month in February is the perfect forum for focusing on the health of the heart. Because the heart’s health can mean longevity. For everyone.

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