February brings is not only the month of love, but also brings awareness to the strongest muscle in our body: the heart. Lots of emphasis is put on relationships this month with Valentine’s Day approaching. But the most important relationship of all is to care for your heart and the heart health of your significant other as we celebrate American Heart Month this February.
Heart disease is often called the Silent Killer. It is also the #1 cause of death in America. Heart disease and stroke cause more than 17 million deaths each year. That number is expected to rise to more than 23.6 million by 2030. Heart disease can easily be prevented through diet and exercise to reduce occurrences of obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is the result of excess gunk in the blood causing a hardening of the arteries. The arteries become narrow and weaken, and extra blood needs to be pumped to compensate. Your heart is not thrilled by this extra work. High cholesterol causes the arteries to harden and can eventually break off, causing clots that lead to stroke or heart attack. Most of these are the result of obesity, with excess fat in the body causing extra work on the heart and circulatory system.
If your goal is to be with your significant other for a long time, taking care of each other’s hearts is a great place to start. Here are some simple ways you and your significant other can keep those hearts beating for each other and your yourselves.
You Gonna Eat That?
Most causes of cardiovascular disease are rooted in nutrition. Weight management is key to keeping the heart in good health. The types of foods we consume can also have an effect on how our heart and body functions. Here are diet tricks to make sure your heart is being managed by your mouth:
- Portion Power. Ideally, a meal should be 1/4 lean protein, 1/4 whole grain, and 1/2 fruit and/or veggies. And all meals should be one plate and no more.
- Not All Fat is Created Equal. You’ve probably heard there are “good” and “bad” fats. The fats
that we want to limit are saturated fats, which are fats that are typically solid at room temperature (think about butter and animal fat). Fats we want to include in our diet are mono and polyunsaturated fats, which are typically liquid at room temperature, such as oils, and can be found in foods including avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. This is not a free-for-all to have all fat, all the time, so still use sparingly.
- Fiber is your Bodyguard. Want to protect your blood vessels and heart? Fiber is the answer. Soluble fiber, which is found in the flesh of fruits, veggies, and parts of whole grains, can help to lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind).
- So Long, Sodium. Sodium has been linked to a leading cause of high blood pressure. Typically sodium is found in salt. The main places we encounter sodium in our foods is when salt is added during cooking, sprinkled on food at the table, and in processed foods, including frozen and packaged goods. Avoid putting the salt shaker on the table, and limit using salt in cooking. Instead, aim to use seasonings, herbs, and spices to add flavor without the sodium. Restaurants are also notorious for using a lot of salt in their foods, which is another reason to monitor those portions and aim to cook more at home. Watch out for these hidden sodium sources!
Check out this Wildtree Heart Healthy Make Fresh Dinners Bundle for some low sodium/low saturated fat options to make fresh at home.
Move That Body
“Cardio” was not created to be a torture device. It actually serves a health purpose. When we cause our heart to work through exercise, it not only makes our heart and blood vessels stronger. By purposely putting our hearts in temporary stressful situations, it will be better prepared if something were to happen. Think of cardio like a fire drill for your heart. Exercise also helps with weight management, which can lead to less pressure on the heart. Crazy what 30 minutes a day can do for your health! Forms of cardiovascular exercise include running/jogging, bike riding, and dancing.
Don’t Be a Stress Mess
When the heart is constantly under stressful situations, it does not recover quite as quickly. So rather than being a temporary fire drill, stress is an ongoing fire for the heart. Stress has been linked to weight gain along with heart disease. Pretty vicious cycle, right? Manage stress with these tips:
- Take short breaks at work. Get up and away from the computer and take a walk around the office. Or, better yet, get outside for some fresh air and a walk around the parking lot.
- Cut yourself off from work. Thanks to technology, we can be more productive, but it’s much harder to disconnect. Set a time to shut down for the day and unwind.
- Make time for you. Too often, we are busy pleasing everyone else that we don’t take time for ourselves. Find a way to get some “ME” time, whether that is taking a bubble bath, reading a magazine, or eating a meal with NO distractions.
- Go Away. Raise your hand if you used all your vacation time last year. Most Americans do not use all their allotted vacation time, meaning they are not taking the time to rest and recharge. Whether it’s long weekends or a 2-week get-away, make an intention to spend some time away.
- Journaling. Take some time to write down the positive events of the day. Express gratitude for something or someone you are thankful for. Keeping a journal of the positive moments will allow the mind to calm itself.
- Go to sleep. If you are getting poor quality sleep or not enough sleep, then you are not doing your heart any favors. If sleep tends to be restless, consider some of these stress management tips to help calm the mind and body.
- Massage Time. Book some time to ease those muscles. Or better yet, make some time with your significant other for a serious massage session, which could lead to…
Strive for Sex-cess
Yes, a blog dedicated to couples is obviously going to address doing “It”. Sex not only is a killer cardio workout, but helps with stress relief by balancing hormones and relieving tension. Research has shown that healthy relationships engaging in regular sexual activity can reduce risk of heart attack. In addition to strengthening your relationship thorough sex, let’s follow the wise words of Stacey Q and keep those two hearts beating as one.
HOW DO YOU & YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER KEEP THOSE HEARTS HEALTHY?
SHARE YOUR HEART HEALTH TIPS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!
DISCLAIMER: All opinions are my own and are not influenced or biased by any third parties. I am not compensated for mentioning any specific brands or retailers on this blog, however I do serve as an affiliate for several retailers, including Wildtree, which pays me a commission for purchases made through my website and allows me to keep this website and blog active for you and future readers.