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:
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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/-/media/data-import/downloadables/heart-disease-and-stroke-statistics-2018 — at-a-glance-ucm_498848.pdf.
“Mission Lifeline Wyoming.” About Heart Attacks, 19 June 2018, www.heart.org/en/affiliates/mission-lifeline-wyoming.
“Mediterranean Diet: A Heart-Healthy Eating Plan.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 3 Nov. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801.
“Make Every Move Count Infographic.” About Heart Attacks, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/make-every-move-count-infographic.
“CDC Features.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 Dec. 2018, www.cdc.gov/features/sleep-heart-health/index.html.
“Stress and Heart Health.” About Heart Attacks, 17 Apr. 2018, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/stress-and-heart-health.