Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death for women and men alike. February is the national heart month. So as a medical professional, it is the perfect time to educate your friends and family about the risk factors that could lead to heart disease. It’s also the month of heart-to-hearts, expressing love and showing appreciation to ourselves, our bodies, as well as the people around us. So for this occasion, here are some tips for a healthy heart and a successful Valentine’s day!
Tips for a healthy heart and a successful Valentine’s day
- Check your numbers
As a medical professional, you know how important maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels are for your heart health. And although you could be checking your patients’ numbers all day long, you might often forget to do the same for yourself. So consider this a friendly reminder to measure your blood pressure as well as cholesterol levels. This is the first step to determine what changes you have to implement in your lifestyle. Moreover, it will help you eliminate some of the key risk factors leading to heart disease. However, in case your stats are higher than average, it’s time to turn to your diet and exercise regimen (or lack thereof). This leads us to our next point, good nutrition and physical activity.
- Diversify your diet
When you work in the health sector, you’re always trying to find more efficient ways to help your patients. And if they stand at risk of heart disease, you will definitely advise them to reconsider their eating habits. But are you following your own advice? Granted, as a professional working a crazy busy schedule, you won’t always have enough time to prep and cook your own meals every day. However, you still have control over what you put into your body. The good news is you don’t have to radically change your whole diet. With that said, you still have to make some effort to stay healthy.
For instance, you can start by eliminating trans fats, since they not only increase bad cholesterol but they can also reduce your good cholesterol. You should also try to cut back on foods with high saturated fats. When it comes to good nutrition, severe restriction is the last thing you want to do. Instead, you should aim for diversifying your diet and consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and poultry or fish. The rule of thumb, when it comes to eating, consists of everything in moderation.
- Get regular exercise
Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get a membership and hit the gym every day at 4.30 in the morning. However, getting your heart rate up and your blood circulation moving is essential. Of course, this goes without saying, and you’ve probably encountered your fair share of people on the brink of cardiovascular disease. If you come to think of it, recommending exercise must have been part of those patient/health professional consultations. But the automated response in most cases would be “I don’t have time”, or “I don’t like it”. Fortunately, exercise doesn’t mean one hour a day, 5 or 6 days a week.
There are numerous forms of physical activity, which entails there’s something for every one of us. Nobody expects you to work 40 to 60 hours a week, find the time to cook healthy meals, spend time with your family and loved ones, and on top of that dedicate one hour of each day to run or hike or climb. You can wake up 20 minutes earlier and take an invigorating jog.
You can do push-ups, sit-ups, or crunches in sets of 10 while you’re waiting for your coffee to brew or your bagel to toast. You can jump rope while your dinner is cooking or you can walk or cycle back home instead of driving or using public transportation. There are many overlooked workout opportunities that don’t require overly strenuous activity but that will still burn fat and boost your metabolism. It all comes down to your organizational skills and how determined you are.
- Maintain a healthy weight
This one is a bit tricky since weight can fluctuate due to several factors (some of which can be out of your control). Be that as it may, you can still take charge of your body and instill healthier habits to maintain a healthy weight. Sleep, without doubt, plays an essential role in keeping your BMI at normal levels. If you pull quite a few all-nighters or if you get less than 7 hours of sleep a night, you will notice that it’s much harder to lose weight or maintain. That’s mainly because you don’t allow enough time for your body to rest and regenerate.
It’s a recipe for disaster when you combine lack of sleep with the stress and high pressure you are subjected to, as a medical professional. You can try working around your schedule to find the optimal time for you to go to bed, power naps during the day can also be greatly beneficial. During your lunch break, find a quiet spot, take your scrub hat and shoes off and enjoy the silence. You can either meditate during that time, which will ultimately release some of the stress and negative energy or you can take an energizing nap to help you power through your next shift.
- Quit smoking and drink in moderation
Every medical professional will usually put their patients’ well-being above theirs, and while that’s a noble thing to do, sometimes you have to put your health and sanity first. This also includes your heart health, which means it’s time to ditch the nasty habit of chainsmoking in favor of something more productive and constructive.
Over time, cigarettes damage the lining of your arteries and the action of smoking will end in a build-up of arethoma. This will lead to restricted circulation and potential heart attacks or strokes. But chances are you already know this! Except in this case, having the proper knowledge doesn’t amount to anything if you’re not going to act on it.
- Do more of what you love
February is all about heart health and if you want to maintain yours, what’s better than doing more of what you love? Leading a happy and healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be this unattainable utopia that only travel bloggers and Instagram influencers seem to have access to. When you’re stressed, your blood pressure goes up, you would eat more, probably sleep less, and even fall into a vicious sedentary cycle.
When you stress less and take the time to appreciate the small things, you enjoy life more. Read more books if that makes you happy, meditate, practice yoga, go out on long walks, or just relax at home. This is essential for both your physical and your mental well-being. You should also take this chance to educate your loved ones on heart health and share some of your tips on how to eliminate some of the risk factors.
In fact, with Valentine’s day approaching, it’s the perfect occasion to show your love and gratitude to your partner, your family, your friends, and most importantly yourself. Surprise that special someone with a romantic home cooked dinner. Or skip right to dessert and bake them a lovely chocolate cake, after all, it’s not a healthy balanced diet without a few indulgences here and there.
Valentine’s day is also the perfect occasion to pamper yourself and enjoy some self-care. Treat yourself to that pair of shoes you’ve always wanted, take a relaxing candlelit bath, or simply stay in, unwind, and watch some of your favorite romcoms.