February seems to be the time of the year we see hearts everywhere. While we seem so concerned about displaying images of hearts, we’re often not as concerned about the health of our real heart. It’s no wonder that February is Heart Health Month. Let’s honour Cupid this year and learn how to keep our own hearts healthy with these 5 fun and easy tips!
1. Dancing is Exercise Too
Remember when we talked about keeping our New Year’s Resolutions alive? If one of your goals was to get in better shape, there’s no better way to stay motivated, interested and excited about your goals than by making the activities enjoyable. Exercise doesn’t always have to be about free weights, reps, and sets. According to Everyday Health, you achieve all sorts of health benefits by dancing, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and decreasing stress levels that can lead to other heart problems down the road.
Not only does dancing increase your heart rate, get your blood flowing and improve your mood, but it’s also a social activity that can be enjoyed in a class or with a partner. The greatest thing about dancing for exercise? You’re giving your heart a great health boost without even trying. So put a little rhythm in your step and dance the night away!
2. Prepare a Healthy Meal for Two
Sometimes cooking isn’t anything to celebrate. When we’re alone or in a big rush, cooking can seem like an annoying chore, and it has always been easier to grab fast food while on the go. That’s why the fast food industry is one of the biggest in the world. We just don’t have time in our busy lives to prepare something from scratch.
Learn to make cooking fun again by turning it into an activity that you and a partner can share together. Try a new dish you’ve never prepared before with fresh, local ingredients. Turn on some catchy music to set the mood, and you’ll find that preparing the meal is almost as enjoyable as eating it. Not only will you slow down long enough to savor every bite of your creation, but you’ll also be eating a freshly prepared, healthy meal that you made from scratch. Eating home-cooked meals tend to be more nutritious and the portions smaller. Restaurants tend to overfeed their patrons in order “to give them their money’s worth”. But if you’re at home, there’s no pressure. Once you’re full, simply store the rest in the fridge for later!
According to this article about healthy eating tips, eating healthy foods (such as fresh fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, lean protein and high fibre grains) goes a long way in preventing heart disease. So, the next time you’re at the grocery store, try and stick to the outside aisles—there you’ll find fresh produce, whole wheat bread, organic dairy products and unprocessed meats. A diet based on natural, whole foods can significantly lower cholesterol, boost your immune system and reduce the risk of heart disease.
3. Swimming Laps Is a Perfect Way to Challenge Yourself
You don’t need to an Olympic-sized pool to reap the benefits of daily swimming. Swimming is usually associated with hot summer days and kids splashing around the water. But a regular swimming regimen is proven to do your heart wonders. According to Harvard Health, swimming provides an all-around health boost. When it comes to your heart and lungs, it “trains the body to use oxygen more efficiently,” which makes your heart stronger. Swimming also supports your joints and bones, so your body doesn’t feel the shock of impact. Compared to other heart exercises, swimming adds the least amount of stress to your body.
In order to get the full health benefits of swimming, try counting laps. Keeping track of the numbers as you practice your strokes back and forth can be a bit of a challenge, but with practice, you’ll feel more focused and centered. Just make sure to keep moving and push yourself. And when you’re done, all you have to do is flip over on your back and let the gentle sound of water relax you.
Don’t let winter spoil your swimming plans. Check for listings in your community for indoor swimming pools. Swimming during the winter months is an ideal activity and can even keep the seasonal blues away, AND you can enjoy the comforts of temperature-regulated water.
4. Sometimes It’s Good to be a Quitter
Nasty habits like smoking are probably the very worst things you can do for your cardiovascular health. You might have already tried to quit before, but quitting smoking can be one of the most difficult challenges anyone can face. The first thing to remember is that the will to quit is already within you. No matter how many times you slip and pick up another cigarette, you can always, always try again. And just think of the health benefits. According to WHO, within minutes of quitting smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure significantly drop. Within 15 years, your risk of coronary heart disease becomes no higher than that of a non-smoker. Think about it this way: there are a million reasons to quit, and a million excuses not to.
Support from family and friends and distraction from your cravings are two very important must-haves for your post-quit date. You can read a book, start jogging (you’ll soon realize how much farther you can go without feeling winded), or take dance lessons (read above). It’s important to feel fulfilled by fun activities to keep your mind off smoking.
5. Regular Check Ups Offer Peace of Mind
Going to the doctor isn’t exactly fun. But suffering the consequences of missing your regular check ups can sometimes be devastating. Preventative measures are always less painful than retroactive maintenance. For instance, at Closing the Gap, you can test the age of your heart with the AngioDefender. Since most people don’t show symptoms of cardiovascular disease before a heart attack, getting checked regularly can be a lifesaver.
How to make going to the doctor fun? Make the process as painless as possible by scheduling something pleasant before and after your check up, like a movie or coffee with a friend. Sandwiching your appointments between enjoyable activities can lighten your mood, make your visits seem less like a chore, and give you something to look forward to.