Keeping a consistent routine is essential for maintaining a heart healthy lifestyle
The month of February is recognised as National Heart Month, an ideal time to increase awareness of cardiovascular disease prevention.
The leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and high blood pressure are all examples of cardiovascular conditions.
Redstone’s health and wellness experts shared preventative measures that can be taken at any time of year.
The heart-healthy diet
A clinical dietitian at Fox Army Health Center, Heather Hough, stressed the importance of maintaining a healthy diet.
When considering what to include in a heart-healthy diet, my advice would be to focus on increasing consumption of plant-based foods like whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. Pulses.org/global and Oldways.org/traditional-diets are two of my favourite recipe resources. I’m at a loss for picking just one recipe to share, but I love introducing people to these amazing collections of dishes.
A registered nurse at Fox Army Health Center named Shandelon Garner who works in public health shares this view. She acknowledged that a diet focused on heart health isn’t the most appetising, but suggested that eating less sodium, more low-cholesterol foods, and more fruits and vegetables would be a good place to start.
“We had a programme that included home visits when I worked at the Veterans Administration,” Garner said. I visited the homes of people who were struggling with health problems and observed what they had available to eat. A lot of them only had canned beans because they couldn’t afford to buy any fresh produce. I showed them how to improve their diet with what they already had on hand.
Taking control of your stress levels
Managing stress is an important part of living a healthy life. Employee assistance programme coordinator at the Garrison, Carolyn White, has said that shifting one’s perspective can be beneficial. Sometimes this requires making contact with others.
White emphasised the value of perspective in dealing with traumatic events. We can’t always trust what we’re feeling and thinking. Take a step back, if only mentally or emotionally, and see if you can get a fresh perspective on the situation. Try being kinder to yourself or the situation and see if that affects your perspective. Consult an impartial third party if you need help seeing things from a different angle.
Having a strong spiritual foundation can also aid in stress management.
Lt. Col. Charles Lahmon, the Garrison Chaplain, recommends picking up a book as a means of relieving stress. Short but effective, “Six Steps to Reduced Stress” by Dr. Gregory Jantz is the book he suggests. Live Simply, Live Organized, Live Healthy, Live Present, Live Grace-Ful, and Live Grateful are the book’s six tenets.
Garrison’s director of sports, fitness, and aquatics, Lori Ciranni, recommends meditation, yoga, and other hobbies for those suffering from long-term depression.
Proceed with haste
Nurse educator Mary Bouldin from Fox’s Center for Comprehensive Wellness emphasised the importance of staying active for heart health.
Health benefits of exercise are numerous, as Bouldin points out. Exercises that get your heart rate up, like brisk walking, jogging, and swimming, help maintain heart muscle fitness, which is necessary for efficient blood pumping throughout the body. Endorphins are hormones that help alleviate pain, reduce stress, and boost your mood, and they are released by your body during cardiovascular or aerobic exercise. Tiredness at the end of the day is an added bonus, and if it leads to better sleep, that’s even better for your health. Exercise of any kind is good for your heart and overall health, but the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity.
There is one thing on which all wellness authorities can agree. Taking care of one’s health is not a “all or nothing” proposition. It is best summarised by Bouldin.
She reassured us that “we don’t have to do everything perfectly” to improve our cardiovascular health. Small lifestyle adjustments, like making sure you get enough sleep every night, can have a big impact on your health and wellbeing by reducing your risk of developing heart disease and stress. In addition to providing our bodies with great repair parts, eating an extra one to two servings of fruit and vegetables every day may also help with weight management. The advantages accrue gradually over time due to the habit’s routine nature and the fact that we don’t have to put much effort into maintaining it. “Consistency is the highest form of leadership.”