Brought to you by Sansum Clinic
By Jamie Lober
Keeping your heart in good shape comes down to practicing healthy habits. The good news is that with the social and emotional support of friends and family, you can make a commitment to take care of your cardiovascular health and actually keep it. Sometimes it is the small actions that can make the biggest difference, like getting moving, particularly if you are used to being sedentary. “Regular, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is a good energizer that reduces stress, helps keep blood pressure and cholesterol at heart healthy levels and helps maintain a healthy weight,” said Belinda Gordillo, communications director at the American Heart Association. It only takes 30 minutes each day which can be broken down into smaller increments of 10 or 15 minutes at a time. “Walking is a great way to get started,” Gordillo said.
Paying attention to what you put into your body is another way to regain control. You can do this by eating heart healthy foods. “They give you more energy, keep your brain fed, which helps combat depression and helps prevent other problems,” Gordillo said. Attempt to choose healthy snacks as well, especially when you are on the go doing things that make you happy and relax you. “Take time everyday for an activity that you enjoy,” Gordillo said. This can be anything from reading to listening to music to doing yoga. The key is to have fun and laugh when you can. “Laughter is good medicine, so you should find the humor in your situation when possible, watch a silly television program or pop in a comedy movie,” Gordillo said.
Spread joy and humor by telling a joke or funny story to a friend. “Laughing quickens the pulse rate, stimulates the blood circulation, activates muscles, increases oxygen intake and helps you relax,” Gordillo said. Now that you feel good, try to go to pleasant places. “Visit the local coffee shop, attend church events, take a class, visit a friend or just wander around the mall or park,” Gordillo said. Changing your scenery can alleviate stress and put you in a better mood. Staying on top of things personally and professionally will also give you a boost. “Take care of your business by keeping your checkbook balanced, working when you need to, spending time with friends and family, and do not stop planning for the future,” Gordillo said.
The simplest way to stay healthy is often overlooked. “Keep all your medical and dental appointments and do all you canto keep from getting sick,” Gordillo said. Address any questions or concerns you may have and maintain an open dialogue with your doctor. “By managing your weight through proper nutrition, regular physical activity, quitting smoking and finding healthy ways to deal with stress, you can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes or minimize its impact on your body,” Gordillo said. This is just one benefit. “Healthy lifestyle will also reduce your risk of developing other medical conditions,” Gordillo said.
Know your numbers. “Through home monitoring and regular visits with your health care provider, you can keep track of your blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol and weight,” Gordillo said. With proper guidance, you can make lifestyle modifications or take other actions to improve your wellness. “You can do things to reduce your blood pressure without the use of prescription medications like eat a heart healthy diet, which includes reducing sodium, enjoying regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight and managing stress, limiting alcohol and avoiding tobacco smoke,” Gordillo said. Controlling cholesterol is equally important. “Eat healthy foods that are low in cholesterol, trans fats and saturated fats; know that a diet high in fiber helps keep cholesterol levels controlled; and schedule a cholesterol screening and stay on top of health checkups,” Gordillo said. Staying active can make a difference as well. “When you exercise, you increase your body’s ability to make good cholesterol,” Gordillo said. Do not overlook the basics like maintaining a healthy weight, and, if your doctor prescribes cholesterol medication, take it.
Do not be afraid to ask for help and take time to get away in the interest of your health. “Think positive, take time everyday to refresh your mind and admit your limitations,” Gordillo said. Take the time to pat yourself on the back for doing a good job at staying healthy and getting a few extra laughs. “Medical studies show that laughter boosts levels of endorphins, the body’s ‘feel-good’ hormones, and laughter may even boost the immune system,” Gordillo said. Finding humor can help your mental health as well as aid your body and mind in healing.
While everyone in your family should be concerned about heart health, women in particular should tune up. “Heart disease is the No.1 killer, affecting more women than men, and it is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined,” Gordillo said. This has led women to opt to go red, which means having everyone in your social circle, school or workplace wear red to show that heart health matters. Though there have been medical advances and people are becoming more cognizant of their lifestyle choices, the subject should still be taken seriously. “Heart disease in women requires more attention, more research and swifter action,” Gordillo said. The good news is that the Go Red for Women movement has been impacting the health of women for a decade. “More than 627,000 women have been saved from heart disease,” Gordillo said.
Going red is symbolic. “Women who go red are more likely to make healthy choices,” Gordillo said. This is evident by the results the initiative has produced. “Nearly 90 percent have made at least one healthy behavior change; more than one-third have lost weight; more than 50 percent have increased their exercise; six out of 10 have changed their diets; more than 40 percent have checked their cholesterol levels; and one-third have talked with their doctors about developing heart health plans,” Gordillo said. The best time to start is today and with everyone in your family chipping in and getting on board, you are sure to have success.
Jamie Lober, author or “Pink Power,” is a freelance writer on health promotions and disease prevention and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Talk to your doctor about your risk of heart disease.
Be Heart Smart!
Sansum Clinic Health Education Programs address many factors that affect your heart health. All classes are taught by professionals, include take-home materials and are available on an ongoing basis. They are free of charge or low cost and are open to the community.
Programs include: Cholesterol Management, Diabetes Basics (in English & Spanish), Diabetes Blood Sugar Control, Insulin Users Peer Group, Nutrition Navigator, Pre-Diabetes, Stress Management, Weight Management Strategies and WomenHeart Support Group.
Learn about all our Health Education programs or register online www.sansumclinic.org/classes
For more information visit:
www.SansumClinic.org/heart-health or call 1 (800) 4 SANSUM