Finally! Heart Health Tips That Don't Feel Like Work
I work in the ER. That means two things. First, many of the patients who come in with cardiac conditions ask me what they can do to prevent another visit. More often than not, the answers I give are remarkably simple: exercise, eat right, manage stress. No surprises there. And that leads me to the second thing--I know that forming good habits is easier said than done. If it weren’t, we would all be doing it already.
Here’s the good news: some of the best things you can do to protect your heart feel more like indulgence than work. Hit Snooze
Studies show that adults who fail to get eight hours of sleep a night are up to 38% more likely to experience heart disease. You don’t need to worry if you’re shy an hour or two every now and again. But if you struggle to get more than six hours of sleep a night, every night, it may be time to take a look at the reasons why. True insomniacs should consult their doctor, as medication may be required to reset the body’s natural rhythms. Other common causes of sleep deprivation involve too much screen time, taking your work home with you, excessive caffeine or alcohol intake, and stress.
Try setting an alarm to go off about an hour before you would ideally like to be in bed each night. When you hear it, that’s your cue to turn off the computer, TV, or tablet for the night. The light emitted from these devices has actually been shown to interrupt the body’s ability to sense what time it is and regulate its sleep cycle. Use the time right before bed to read instead. Or do something else that relaxes you--spend time with your family, knit, or meditate. Getting to bed and waking up at the same time every day (even on the weekends) will leave you feeling more refreshed and alert.
Find Your Funny Bone
What makes you laugh? Joking with friends, watching your favorite sitcom, and even looking at silly pictures of cats on the internet can all help prevent heart disease. How? Laughing decreases stress hormones, increases good cholesterol, and reduces inflammation of cardiovascular tissue. All these things translate to a happier, healthier heart.
There is a long list of reasons to limit highly processed foods and add wholesome all-natural foods to your diet. Whole foods--those that have undergone minimal processing before making to your plate--tend to contain more bioavailable vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than other food options. Antioxidants, in particular, are important agents in managing bone and joint health, promoting normal cardiovascular function, and supporting the immune system.
Different foods contain different types of antioxidants and it is best to consume a wide variety of these. Almonds, salmon, tuna, fresh berries, and wine (in moderation) are all delicious and heart-healthy. While these ingredients may be a little pricier than others, think of them as an investment in your health and an excuse to get creative in the kitchen.
There is a lot you can do for your heart that doesn’t feel like work and even small steps make a difference. Of course, anyone with a preexisting cardiac condition should regularly consult their physician and include him or her in discussions about which lifestyle choices are right for them. Caretakers should initiate these conversations with their patient or loved one’s doctors when necessary. Those new to the caretaking field can learn more about providing the best possible care and how to get certified to provide Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support at ACLS.net.
Shanon Raynard has worked in emergency medicine for the last eight years and partners with ACLS.net. She believes prevention and preparedness are the most important, and often the most underplayed, aspects of good health.