Vitals Feb 2019 Heart 3
Featured Story Written By Jade Jensen

A Healthy Heart is a Happy Heart

February is here, which means it is officially American Heart Month. Every February, the American Heart Association uses American Heart Month to promote heart health and raise awareness about heart disease.

Heart dis­ease is cur­rent­ly the num­ber one cause of death in the Unit­ed States, and kills one per­son about every 38 sec­onds. In Wyoming, it is expect­ed that 51 peo­ple each day will be diag­nosed with Heart Disease. 

So, what can we do to low­er these num­bers? Start by lis­ten­ing to your heart, and think­ing with your brain. Although some risk fac­tors for heart dis­ease can­not be con­trolled (age, fam­i­ly his­to­ry), oth­er risk fac­tors, such as blood pres­sure, cho­les­terol and exer­cise, can be. Each day, we have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to low­er our chances of devel­op­ing heart dis­ease by mak­ing heart-healthy lifestyle choic­es and encour­ag­ing each oth­er to do the same.


An easy way to par­tic­i­pate in Nation­al Amer­i­can Heart Month is by mak­ing heart healthy food choic­es. Diet and nutri­tion play a huge role in not only our dai­ly lives, but also our over­all health. We can reduce our cho­les­terol, blood pres­sure, and LDL lev­els by con­sum­ing heart healthy foods such as fruits and veg­eta­bles, lean meats, low fat dairy prod­ucts, whole grains, and low sodi­um sea­son­ings. Replac­ing cof­fee and soda with water at meal times can also help make sure you are stay­ing hydrat­ed and healthy all day. 

One of the heart healthy diets that you may have heard about is the Mediter­ranean diet. The Mediter­ranean diet is made up pri­mar­i­ly of eat­ing plant-based foods, such as fruit, veg­eta­bles, legumes, whole grains, and nuts. The diet also encour­ages replac­ing but­ter with healthy fats such as olive oils, using herbs and spices to fla­vor foods instead of salt, lim­it­ing red meat intake to a few times per week, and eat­ing fish and poul­try at least twice a week. 

Research has shown that by fol­low­ing the tra­di­tion­al Mediter­ranean diet, a per­son can low­er their LDL (low den­si­ty lipopro­tein) lev­els. LDL is con­sid­ered the bad cho­les­terol” and can lead to the build up of fat­ty deposits in your arter­ies. So next time you’re at the store pick­ing up lunch items, try pick­ing up Mediter­ranean and heart healthy options such as whole grain breads/​cereals, fresh fruits/​vegetables, no salt added almonds, wal­nuts, tuna pack­ets or a salmon fillet. 


Whether you’re a nurse, radi­ol­o­gy tech, doc­tor, admin­is­tra­tor or food ser­vice cook, we can all ben­e­fit from exer­cis­ing. It is rec­om­mend­ed to get at least 150 min­utes of mod­er­ate exer­cise or 75 min­utes of rig­or­ous exer­cise a week. If your job has you on your feet all day, try speed walk­ing from patient room to patient room to increase your heart rate. If you don’t have a job that requires you to be on your feet all day, set a goal to stand up and move every hour for 5 min­utes or take a trip down to the cafe­te­ria to see what is on the menu for lunch that day.


Get­ting a good night’s sleep is essen­tial to your health. A chron­ic lack of sleep can increase your risk of heart dis­ease. By get­ting the rec­om­mend­ed 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night, you can ensure you’re well rest­ed for the work­day ahead. If you find your­self hav­ing prob­lems sleep­ing at night, try turn­ing off your phone/​television, stick­ing to a reg­u­lar sleep sched­ule and avoid eat­ing or drink­ing a few hours before bed. 


Work­ing in health­care is a very reward­ing occu­pa­tion, but it can also be very stress­ful at times. Too much stress can lead to ele­vat­ed blood pres­sure and the mak­ing of poor lifestyle choic­es, which can ulti­mate­ly increase your risk of devel­op­ing heart disease.

Next time you find your­self feel­ing stressed out, try one or more of the fol­low­ing tips:

  1. Prac­tice pos­i­tive self-talk. Neg­a­tiv­i­ty can lead to stress, so instead of say­ing to your­self I can’t do this” try instead I’ve got this and will do my best”. 
  2. Walk away from the sit­u­a­tion. Try walk­ing away from the sit­u­a­tion for a few min­utes, de-esca­lat­ing to help clear your mind and low­er your stress, and then return­ing back to the problem.
  3. Med­i­tate or prac­tice yoga. Dur­ing your lunch break try spend­ing 1 – 2 min­utes prac­tic­ing deep breath­ing exer­cis­es. Have an Apple watch? Check out the Breathe App!


Ben­jamin, EJ, et al. Heart Dis­ease and Stroke Sta­tis­tics 2018 At-a-Glance.” Amer­i­can Heart Asso­ci­a­tion, 31 Jan. 2018, www​.heart​.org/​-​/​m​e​d​i​a​/​d​a​t​a​-​i​m​p​o​r​t​/​d​o​w​n​l​o​a​d​a​b​l​e​s​/​h​e​a​r​t​-​d​i​s​e​a​s​e​-​a​n​d​-​s​t​r​o​k​e​-​s​t​a​t​i​s​t​i​c​s​-2018 — at-a-glance-ucm_498848.pdf.

Mis­sion Life­line Wyoming.” About Heart Attacks, 19 June 2018, www​.heart​.org/​e​n​/​a​f​f​i​l​i​a​t​e​s​/​m​i​s​s​i​o​n​-​l​i​f​e​l​i​n​e​-​w​y​oming.

Mediter­ranean Diet: A Heart-Healthy Eat­ing Plan.” Mayo Clin­ic, Mayo Foun­da­tion for Med­ical Edu­ca­tion and Research, 3 Nov. 2017, www​.may​oclin​ic​.org/​h​e​a​l​t​h​y​-​l​i​f​e​s​t​y​l​e​/​n​u​t​r​i​t​i​o​n​-​a​n​d​-​h​e​a​l​t​h​y​-​e​a​t​i​n​g​/​i​n​-​d​e​p​t​h​/​m​e​d​i​t​e​r​r​a​n​e​a​n​-​d​i​e​t​/​a​r​t​-​20047801.

Make Every Move Count Info­graph­ic.” About Heart Attacks, www​.heart​.org/​e​n​/​h​e​a​l​t​h​y​-​l​i​v​i​n​g​/​f​i​t​n​e​s​s​/​f​i​t​n​e​s​s​-​b​a​s​i​c​s​/​m​a​k​e​-​e​v​e​r​y​-​m​o​v​e​-​c​o​u​n​t​-​i​n​f​o​g​r​aphic.

CDC Fea­tures.” Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, 3 Dec. 2018, www​.cdc​.gov/​f​e​a​t​u​r​e​s​/​s​l​e​e​p​-​h​e​a​r​t​-​h​e​a​l​t​h​/​i​n​d​e​x​.html.

Stress and Heart Health.” About Heart Attacks, 17 Apr. 2018, www​.heart​.org/​e​n​/​h​e​a​l​t​h​y​-​l​i​v​i​n​g​/​h​e​a​l​t​h​y​-​l​i​f​e​s​t​y​l​e​/​s​t​r​e​s​s​-​m​a​n​a​g​e​m​e​n​t​/​s​t​r​e​s​s​-​a​n​d​-​h​e​a​r​t​-​h​ealth.

sign up for our email newsletter