Rarely do we think about our heart and the incredible job that it does to keep us alive. Since February is American Heart Month there is no better time to think about our heart and consider what we might do to keep it strong and healthy. The heart is the hardest working muscle in our body and is responsible for delivering oxygen to every cell in our body (except the cornea). Our heart works tirelessly every second of every day of our lives and it never gets a break. Consuming a healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco and reducing stress are essential to keeping our heart in top shape and essential to helping our heart keep up with its tremendous demands.
When it comes to diet, it’s not nearly as difficult as we make it out to be. Choose whole, single-ingredient foods that come from the earth, foods that don’t have a label. Load up on plenty of bright colored vegetables and fruits, throw in some whole grains, add some healthy fats from fish, nuts and seeds and avocadoes, get some good lean protein and viola…. a heart healthy diet. You can learn more about a heart healthy diet here and get some tasty, easy to prepare recipes here.
When it comes to physical activity, don’t overthink it, just get moving. Forget what you think you “should” do and do something you enjoy. When you view physical activity as a gift, you’re much more likely to do it. If you’re strapped for time like most people are, look for little ways to infuse more activity into your day. A few minutes here and there can add up to big results. Check out these tips for how to sneak more activity into your day.
Avoiding tobacco is easy if you’ve never used tobacco products but quitting can be tough. If you currently use tobacco products and have been thinking about cutting back or quitting, check out 802Quits. This free resource can provide you with peer support and free nicotine replacement and significantly increase your likelihood of quitting and staying quit. Not only will your heart thank you, but your wallet will to.
Reducing stress can be difficult especially when it seems like our to do lists are impossibly long and there is never enough time in the day. Check out the stress-easing strategies here. In addition to reducing stress, changing our relationship to stress can have a significant health-enhancing impact. Making stress your friend sounds like a crazy idea but research has shown that our relationship to stress does impact our health. According to researcher Kelly McGonigal, “people who are under more stress, but don’t believe or know about its negative effects are actually healthier and more likely to live long happy lives”. If you want to learn more about making stress your friend, check out Kelly’s TEDtalk. If you need some support around reducing and/or managing stress, your EAP is a wonderful, free and confidential resource.
In addition to these lifestyle behaviors, getting regular physicals which include getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked is also important. Most Cigna health plans cover preventive screenings at 100% if using an in-network provider. If you have questions about your benefits or need to find a provider in your plan’s network, log on to mycigna.com or call the number on the back of your card.
When it comes to keeping our hearts healthy, it comes down to the seemingly small and insignificant behaviors we choose to do or not do on a daily basis. Keep it simple, take one small action and you’ll have heart that beats strong and helps you enjoy the life you want and deserve.