Habits for a Healthy Heart

A healthy heart is a worthwhile endeavor.

If you research CARDIAC STATISTICS on the CDC’s website, you will learn a startling fact: heart disease is the leading cause of death for most American adults. Around 655.000 Americans die from some type of heart disease each year per the CDC. The American Heart Association has information on risk factors for cardiac disease. Not all risk factors can be controlled- heredity and genetics do play a role in heart health. However, there are many habits we can put in place in order to reduce our risk of heart disease!

Habits we can develop to protect our hearts:

DON’T SMOKE: Smoking is known for causing many health issues- cardiac disease being a major one. Yale Medicine has some helpful tools for quitting.

FOOD/DRINK- Be aware of what your greatest temptations are and limit the amount of their availability (special occasions). Know and have available the types of healthy foods that you will eat-and foods that do not require a lot of preparation: bananas, apples, grapes, baby carrots, celery. Keep a bowl of fruit on the counter, and have a bowl of fresh veggies at every dinner/snack time. I try to sneak fresh spinach into as many meals as possible, and frequently chop up chunks of veggies and roast them in the oven for dinner (super quick and easy). Find which helpful foods that you are willing to eat, and make it easy to access and prepare them. Water with fruit slices or a cup of decaf flavored hot tea is a great alternative to a sugary or alcoholic drink.

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Check out this latest edition heart healthy cook book by the AHA. (affiliate link)

ACTIVITY- Know the times of day that you are most likely to have energy to exercise, or are least likely to ‘hurt’. Break your activity down into shorter increments if needed. Schedule an activity around a favorite show, or an errand that you need to run. Make activity part of your daily routine: take an extra lap when you go the mailbox, sneak in a walk before dinner, or regularly park a “distance” from a store’s entrance. Having a partner or someone to check in with you is also helpful. Pictures of exercises taped to a cabinet or wall can be great reminders. See more tips to help with exercise follow-through here.

STRESS- Know what events, people or activities tend to increase your stress. Take control of you schedule as much as you are able, to limit or split up stressful activities. Plan breaks between stressors, or spread them throughout the week. Follow up a difficult activity with something you enjoy (a show, phone call, hobby). Perform deep breathing exercises. Distract yourself with a fun activity, conversation with a friend, favorite book, music, scripture, or prayer.

MEDICATIONS- Be knowledgable of what prescriptions and over the counter medications you are taking, and WHY. Be aware of the possible side effects, and what would entail a call to your physician. Use a pill organizer, phone app, or schedule reminders from family, if needed. Don’t miss your medications! See post: cardiac medication precautions.

MONITOR YOUR VITALS- Keep a checklist, and measure daily, at the same time each day. Blood pressure and heart rate would be primary, but temperature, oxygen saturation, and weight could be helpful as well. Have access to the measurements that are considered normal, what might be normal for your body, and what numbers would indicate a phone call to the physician’s office. Be aware of the general signs and symptoms that you might need to call in for, as well.

Keep a log of your blood pressure:

Click this link for access to print a free vitals log!

From my decades in healthcare, I have found 2 important strategies are important when it comes to acting on our knowledge:

**HONEST SELF AWARENESS- Think about and write down your likes, dislikes, temptations, and strengths in all these areas. Ask someone who knows you well, to help you figure out what you don’t already know!

**PREPARATION FOR SUCCESS- Take the time to prepare your home, schedule, activities, and lifestyle in ways that will help you make good choices. Find and have accessible: checklists, reminders, healthy rewards, and partners to support you. Set reasonable goals, ask for help when you feel stuck, and look for small victories and baby steps to celebrate!

Check out this link to an inexpensive “Cardiac Educational Packet” on Etsy, that you can edit and use for improved follow through: vitals, walking log, transfer safety, energy conservation, and post hospitalization instructions with blanks to fill in as appropriate!

***Clinicians: If you enjoy learning about nutrition and health, consider gaining CEU credits with this awesome course: Food as Medicine, by PESI (affiliate link).
Nutrition is a critical component of the healing process for every patient you treat. Not only will you learn the most current science and evidence-based tools, but also simple lifestyle hacks that lead to lasting behavior change. This comprehensive training is filled with actionable techniques that you can use immediately! Sign up today through my affiliate link to register.

You may also want to read: Home Recovery after Heart Surgery, or 10 Tips for a Senior Walking Program.

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