Loving Your Heart and Body this Valentine’s Day

couple walking

February is a big month for hearts.

In addition to February playing host to Valentine’s Day, this month is also American Heart Month. Each year, roughly 715,000 Americans have a heart attack, and 600,000 people die from heart disease annually. Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for both men and women, and it costs the United States billions of dollars each year in health care services, medications, and lost productivity.

Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association have set out to raise awareness this month for lifestyle changes people can make to reduce their chance of developing heart disease and get healthy. These heart disease prevention tips, coupled with general wellness advice, can help you live a longer, healthier life.

Eating better

By now, if you haven’t stuck to your New Year’s resolution, you can probably kiss it goodbye. Many people try to eat better, but then fall off the wagon once they realize a lettuce wrap doesn’t taste as good as a burger. American Heart Month is a great reminder to get back on track and make healthier food choices. The best way to form long-lasting habits is to make gradual changes so you aren’t forcing yourself to adjust to large amounts of change at once.

For starters, switch out your processed snacks for fruits or vegetables. (That doesn’t mean smother your carrots with ranch dressing.) If you’re used to eating chips, switch to pretzels. If you have a sweet tooth, try snacking on strawberries, melon, or other fruits instead of sugary fruit snacks. Also switch from white bread to a whole grain alternative. For pasta dishes, consider whole grain instead of starchy white pasta. These small changes can make a big impact on your overall diet.

In addition to what you eat, be mindful of what you’re drinking. Sodas are notoriously bad for your health, and even fruit juices can be loaded with sugars that are bad for your body – and your waistline. If you need an afternoon pick me up, switch out your afternoon coffee for a green or herbal tea. Most people won’t be able to eliminate java completely, but switching one cup a day out for tea can be a great alternative to always being jacked up on java.

Exercising more

Regular exercise can not only help you maintain a healthy weight, but it can also lower blood pressure and cholesterol. If you are just getting back into exercising, it’s best to ease back into it to prevent injury – and soreness. April 3 marks National Walking Day, which is the perfect opportunity to take a break during the work day and get some exercise.

It’s also recommended that you take regular breaks during the work day to regain focus and reduce stress. Taking a brief break every hour can help improve performance when working on a prolonged task and can lower the feeling of being stressed. If you can’t get out to exercise, meditating for a few minutes or even walking around the building can prove to be the respite most of us need from our daily routine. Kegel exercises and kegel balls can also help improve your sexual health and that is why you should make it a part of your routine as well.

Wearing medical jewelry if needed

If you have a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes or a severe food allergy, it is in your best interest to ensure you wear a medical ID bracelet or some form of medical ID alert. You may not think it matters whether you wear one of these devices, but wearing a medical ID can help first responders in the event that you are unable to speak or provide them with your medical history. This can help alleviate the chance of misdiagnosis and can allow them to contact your emergency contact should you need them to do so.

While medical alert jewelry has a stereotype for being unattractive and obtrusive, several companies now offer stylish medical ID jewelry for men, women, and children. There is also more than the traditional bracelet style available, such as pendants, dog tags, and watches that you can wear to display your medical information. Wearing a medical ID will give you and your family peace of mind.

Getting more sleep

So most people are aware that not getting enough sleep can lead to under-eye circles and crankiness, but did you realize that getting the proper amount of sleep can actually offer health benefits? Adequate sleep can help improve memory, curb inflammation, lower stress, and can help improve emotional stability. It can also help you live longer, as too much or too little sleep is associated with a shorter lifespan.

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