February is Heart Month and I would like to share some physical and emotional health tips with you. To start, I recommend a healthy and balanced diet. This should include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. Try to avoid excess salt, excess sugar, and saturated fats.
Move more, sit less. Do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week and at least two days per week of muscle-strengthening activities. Moving around can combat that afternoon energy slump, improve focus, and help you focus better. Replace caffeine with movement.
It is very important to know your family medical history and to share this knowledge with your doctor. This allows your doctor to tailor your medical treatment plan based on the prevailing risk factors in your family tree.
If you are taking medication to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, it is important to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Always ask questions if you don’t understand something. Never stop taking your medicine without first talking to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Buy an over-the-counter automatic upper arm blood pressure monitor to help you track your blood pressure and heart rate. Home blood pressure monitors are easy to use, but ask your doctor if you need help on how to use them.
Get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19. In addition to protecting you against serious illness and hospitalization, the COVID-19 vaccine can protect your heart. If you are eligible, get yourself and your family vaccinated and boost yourself against the virus.
Emotional and mental health is as important as physical health. Stress can lead to increased blood pressure and overeating, which in turn can lead to poor health. Learn how to manage your stress and communicate your feelings in a safe and non-aggressive way. Practice forgiveness and move forward in life. With these feelings, you will treat yourself and others with the highest consideration.
Practice self-respect and self-love, as they are mutually reinforcing. Find friends who support your growth and healthy habits. Focusing on love can help with heart health. Our blood pressure is lower when we interact socially with each other. When we feel the emotion of love, levels of oxytocin (a feel-good hormone) increase and help us relax by lowering our blood pressure and heart rate.
Laugh often. Laughing not only improves your mood, but can also help reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. It generates a positive feeling. Be sure to write down what makes you laugh – do you have a funny friend? Do romantic comedies make you laugh? Either way, add it often.
Some studies have shown that daily meditation can reduce stress, which in turn can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. Practice relaxation techniques like taking slow, deep breaths while listening to soothing music. Or simply take time in a quiet space to meditate or pray.
Improve your posture with daily deep breathing. The ribs are attached to segments of the spine, when you take a deep breath and the ribs separate slightly, this opens up space along the spine, reducing pressure on the intervertebral discs and improving mobility. Consciously inhale air slowly and deeply, and you will feel your upper back, neck, and shoulders move into the correct position, reducing tension and relieving pain.
Choose a hobby. Stimulating activities can be fun and distract you from negative thoughts or worries. Expose your brain and body to different things by learning new things every day.
All in all, there are plenty of ways to start living a happier, healthier life. It will improve your heart health. Consider starting small and then implementing more as you go. It’s the sum of small things that can make a real difference in your health and emotional well-being.
Dr. Sumit Sehgal is a Cardiologist with UnityPoint Health – Fort Dodge