It’s the beginning of October. With temperatures falling, it’s time to consider how to take care of ourselves so we can enjoy the upcoming holiday season with our families.
A good place to start is your heart, which is the hardest-working muscle in your body. Heart disease is a leading cause of death making it important to adopt a healthy lifestyle. While some risk factors can’t be changed — family history, age and sex, for example — we can do some things to improve our heart health.
Live healthier. A heart-healthy diet and regular exercise are keys to a stronger heart. Studies have shown women who eat lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains and lean proteins, and maintain a healthy weight, are 92% less likely to have a heart attack. (Men, obviously, would benefit as well.) Getting your heartrate up for 30 minutes every day by walking, biking, swimming, etc., along with eating right, will improve heart function. Start with small steps. Join a gym and follow a regular workout schedule. It can work wonders for your libido and help you get/stay in shape. Many gyms have programs formulated for seniors.
Quit bad habits. If you smoke, it’s time to quit. Believe me, I know it is difficult. Smoking tobacco increases the risk of heart disease. Talk to your doctor for advice on kicking the habit. Numerous over-the-counter aids can help.
Unwind a little. Relax and unwind every day. Turn off the TV or electronic devices. When we get stressed out, our bodies increase adrenaline, which overworks our hearts. Talk to a friend. Exercise, do yoga or sit quietly and meditate. Working in the garden does wonders for my stress level (I wish I could say the same for my golf game), and reading a good novel in a comfortable chair puts my mind at ease.
Rest. Sleep is good for your heart. It allows our bodies to recover, which is good for all aspects of our health. As we sleep, our blood pressure and heart rate go down, giving your heart a break. Research shows people who don’t get enough sleep are more than twice as likely to die of heart disease. Experts recommend at least seven hours a day and avoiding blue lights and playing computer games just before going to bed.
Stay social. For better heart health, exercise with a friend. Having a social support system not only helps one stay motivated, but it can lower your risk of heart disease. Studies show people who stay socially active have significantly lower blood pressure and other factors for heart disease than those who are isolated.
Finally, make an appointment to visit your doctor. Knowing your “good” cholesterol (HDL) and “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels, as well as your blood pressure, weight and body mass index (BMI) are the first steps to improving heart function. Follow up so you can keep up with your progress.
Stay safe and stay healthy.
Al Brandenburg is a member of Maricopa Community Advocates.
This column was first published in the October edition of InMaricopa magazine.