Tips For a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

By Claire Yanta-O’Mahoney

 Lub-dub,

 lub dub,

lub dub.

No, I’m not referring to the sounds of fireworks or loud bass. This is the sound of your heart beating, which it has done for your entire life without skipping a beat!  Your ticker is one of your most vital organs and without it, life is not sustainable.  February is American Heart Month, so let’s discuss some of the best ways to live a heart-healthy lifestyle!

Exercise!

Aim to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week.  Broken down, this is just over 20 minutes a day!  You can definitely find ways to sneak in little workouts by walking outside with a coworker, taking  the stairs, taking the dog for a brisk walk, playing with the kids, hitting the gym, following a workout video, cleaning the house, or even dancing around the kitchen!  To know when your body is in its exercise heart rate zone, aim to be moving fast enough to where you can still carry on a conversation but cannot sing.  If your body can handle it, try to push yourself a little harder by increasing the intensity to where it’s more difficult to speak!  The goal is to make your cardiovascular system work harder than it normally does throughout the day.

Eat Heart Healthy Foods

This part is extra fun because everyone loves to eat!  Each day, aim for five servings of vegetables (your mom was right!), four servings of fruits, 3-6 of whole grains, three of dairy, two of proteins, and about three tablespoons of oils.  Foods that are particularly heart healthy include:

  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Dark beans
  • Veggies
  • Fruits
  • Dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cocoa (yes!)
  • Red wine (also yes!)

These foods contain omega-3 fatty acids, phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins, potassium, magnesium, folate, lycopene, alpha- and beta-carotene, and calcium.  Make sure you get a variety each day and throughout the week to keep your body and your taste buds happy!

Also if you smoke, stop TODAY!

 Reduce Stress

Today’s society has come to accept stress and at times even reward it, but in reality, it can wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system.  It can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other heart-related conditions.  The military lifestyle with frequent deployments and PCSes only adds to life’s daily pressures. Though it’s unlikely that we can completely rid our lives of stress, it is possible to reduce it.  Try to exercise, practice yoga, meditate (it’s really easier than you think, look up free YouTube videos!), maintain a positive attitude, pinpoint sources of stress and try to eliminate them or mitigate them, and do one thing every day that you love.  It might take a bit of practice, but over time you’ll probably find that living a less stressful lifestyle is realistic and feels good!

Sleep

We all know the power of a good night’s sleep!  It’s just finding time in the day to make that rest happen can be challenging.  Often, setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep starts the night before.  Each evening, take the time to write down what you need to accomplish the following day.  This will allow you to start your day off with a plan so that once the evening rolls around you won’t be putting out fires and instead, can slowly wind down.  Try to limit caffeine consumption by midday and also to eat dinner earlier in the evening, so digestion doesn’t affect your ability to fall asleep.  Develop a routine of listening to calming music, reading a book, talking to your loved ones, and keeping electronics (including your phone, TV, laptop, tablet, etc.) out of the bedroom.  Slow your breathing and take deep belly breaths, reflect on the good parts of your day, and drift off to dreamland!

By the way, try not to rely on alcohol to increase drowsiness as it actually disrupts and reduces the quality of your sleep!

Cultivate Fulfilling, Meaningful Relationships

Humans are meant to communicate and support each other – that’s why it feels so good to have a long catch up talk with a close friend or family member!  Relationships enrich our lives, help us solve problems, push us, teach us, and connect us with each other.  Also remember that it’s not the quantity of relationships we have, but instead it’s the quality that matters.  Make an effort to spend time with those people who bring joy to your life and make you feel happy.  The chances are that you bring those same wonderful qualities to them, too!

There are so many little things we can do daily to take care of your hearts-so love your body and start today!

PCSgrades Guest Author: Claire Yanta-O’Mahoney is a proud veteran spouse originally from St. Louis. She started Fleur de Lis Fitness as a way to help clients seize the day and transform themselves into the healthier person they deserve to be. She offers fitness and healthy nutrition coaching to clients both in the Charlottesville, VA area as well as across the globe LIVE online. Claire tailors her programs to clients’ individual goals and needs so that it fits their lifestyle. Claire is an American Council on Exercise (ACE) Certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Masters of Science in Developmental Psychology from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. Claire loves spending time with her husband, family, friends, traveling, reading, and cooking (or “health-ifying” recipes).

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