10 How To's for Heart Health

Celebrating National Heart Health Month … let’s talk about 10 ways to improve your heart health and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.

  1. Step number one: When was your last annual check up with your doctor? If it has been over a year, stop reading this and call to set up your appointment. Getting your baseline “blood work” (blood sugar, cholesterol, etc.) and talking with your doctor about your heart health is foundational.

  2. While you are waiting for the appointment day, start walking 20 minutes a day for 3 days a week. In a 2001 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association even “1 hour of walking per week predicted lower risk” of heart disease.

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3. Got that baseline walking as a habit? Then let’s build up the walking to 20 minutes to an hour on 5 days per week. This will lower your risk even more.

4. Trouble fitting in the extra walking? No worries. Your heart doesn’t care how it gets worked, it just wants to get worked. Try cleaning house at a brisk pace or washing your car by hand or push mowing your lawn. Or try these other ideas.

5. Needing some family time? Playing tag and throwing Frisbees can get your heart pumping. (Especially if you are like me - walking to get it when I don’t catch it.)

6. Smoking? Exercise can help you kick the habit. Seek the help you need to stop.

7. An apple a day … or oatmeal … or beans … or nuts/seeds … or even avocados. These are all rich in the type of fiber that helps to lower “bad” cholesterol.

8. Laugh. A. Lot. It is great to help reduce blood pressure…which relates to #9.

9. Stress less. What are your stress triggers? How do you relieve stress? Stress comes at us all, so have a plan.

10. Strength train. Once you have your walking or other heart-pumping exercise in habit, add some strength training to increase your “good” cholesterol. Even two strength training sessions per week will help your heart health.

Questions? Let me know.

Top Ten Tips for Aging Healthy

I don’t like the term “anti-aging” because it somehow implies aging is a bad thing. It is not only not a bad thing, it is an inevitable thing you’ve done a few seconds of since opening this post and reading it.

Your goal is not to prevent aging but to age well. I’ll go a step further. Your goal is to get to your 90+ year old self, look back with bright eyes in a strong body and say “Yes! That was the way to live.”

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So, how do you create that strong life lived?

Here are the top ten tips from my two favorite age-well books:

  1. Keep your arteries healthy. Not very glamorous sounding, I know. But this guards against heart attack, stroke, memory loss, vascular disease, and even some wrinkles. Markers to watch? Blood pressure and C-reactive protein (for inflammation). Actions to take? Exercise, eat several vegetable servings a day, and get your annual check up.

  2. Pump up your immune system. Actions to take? Enjoy tomato sauces regularly, get your vitamin D, and see your dentist to prevent periodontal disease which increases inflammation in your body.

  3. Avoid smoking. Actions to take? Simple. Either don’t start or get whatever help you need to stop.

  4. Manage your stress. I literally mean your stress. What stresses your friends or spouse or neighbor may not stress you. And how you manage it may be different than their method, too. Actions to take? List what the major stressors are in your life and find ways to eliminate, work around, or re-frame them. Also, this month try at least one new way plus a “tried-and-true” to relieve your stress. (Hmmm…makes me want to break out my favorite old comedy, “Oscar”.)

  5. Increase your circle of friends and deepen the relationships you have. Your social network is shown in numerous studies to not only increase life satisfaction, but lengthen your life as well.

  6. Get it out. If you have experienced secret traumas in your life and you have not processed them yet, please seek counsel. The silence is killing you.

  7. Manage your money. In both books this is directly or indirectly covered as a means to lower your stress and provide for your needs throughout your life.

  8. Discover your purpose. Even if you haven’t found your “big calling” in life, focus on finding meaning in the everyday things you do and enjoy.

  9. Find faith. In one study “the risk of dying over nearly three decades was 36 percent lower for frequent church attendees than for infrequent attendees.” In Emotional Longevity the author tells a powerful story of Maya Angelou’s faith for her son’s physical healing. The doctors said he would be paralyzed. She said “Thank God, my son will walk out of this hospital.” Three days later he moved his toes.

  10. Live in positive emotions. Walk through negative ones. Sadness, grief, anxiety will come. Your ability to come through those and back into a positive place increases your “resiliency” and ability to age healthy.

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Here’s to your 90 year old self, saying “Well done. Now watch this,” while you wink at your great grandkids.

(Books: Emotional Longevity by Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D. and The Real Age Makeover by Michael F. Roizen, M.D.)