Wellness for the Family: Heart Healthy Habbits

In the past five years, more than 50,000 Michigan women have died from heart disease alone. It is considered the number one killer of women. February, recognized as “American Heart Health Month,” is dedicated to addressing this health epidemic and encouraging methods of prevention. The good news is many of the risk factors associated with heart disease are within our control. Proper diet, exercise and stress management all play a role; meaning everyday choices and behaviors can have a significant impact.

Heart-Healthy Meal Time

  • Cook Healthy: Aside from choosing foods that are healthy, consider how they are prepared. For example, a fried chicken breast can have anywhere from 30-40g of fat, while the same portion of grilled chicken is usually around 15-18g of fat. Practice healthier cooking methods and utilize herbs or spices to make dishes flavorful and heart-healthy.
  • Plan Ahead: Preparing food or batch cooking for the week ahead can make nutritious meals more convenient. From overnight oats to premade chicken chili—meal planning allows you to start and end your days on a healthy, delicious note.
  • Incorporate Power Foods: Whole grain, fiber-filled and plant-based foods all work to endorse a healthier heart. Oatmeal, fish, fruits and vegetables, beans, legumes and nuts are some examples of heart-healthy foods with anti-inflammatory elements and the ability to lower cholesterol.

Heart-Healthy Workday

  • Get Moving: If you spend a majority of your workday sitting at a desk, break things up with movement. Stretch, plan walking meetings or get in some calf raises at the copy machine. By doing so, you increase blood flow, reduce stress and avoid the health risks of sitting for too long.
  • Pack Lunches: Try to save eating out for special occasions, or limit yourself to going once a week. Restaurant food is often prepared with higher amounts of butter, sugar, salt, oil and processed ingredients—all of which contribute to weight gain and high cholesterol. By packing a lunch, you avoid the temptation of unhealthy options and save money!
  • Step Away from Stress: High blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke in Michigan, and stress is a major contributor. Reduce the mental pressures of work by hanging pictures of family around the office, or periodically stepping away to clear your thoughts and do some deep breathing exercises.

Heart-Healthy Home

  • 30 Minutes of Movement: A half hour of exercise amounts to only two percent of the entire day. Cleaning the house, doing laundry and even playing with the kids can serve as an opportunity to get in a few lunges or lifts. No matter how or when you choose to do it, regular exercise is considered the single most important key to heart health.
  • Get Enough Sleep, Not Too Much: Too little or too much sleep can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems. Aside from getting the recommended six to eight hours in each day, the quality of sleep also matters. A good night’s rest positively effects your heart, stress hormones, immune system and mental health.
  • Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Happiness and a strong sense of spirit have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease. Be sure to dedicate time to doing what makes you happiest with people who make you smile. Laughter can lower your blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke, heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.

Grace Derocha is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more health tips, click here.