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.

Vitals Feb 2019 Heart 3

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.

Diet

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. 

Exer­cise

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.

Sleep

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. 

Stress

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!

References

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​.mayoclinic​.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.