February is American Heart Month

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Story by Cheri Woodsmall

Ahealthy heart is always essential but especially during the current pandemic. People with heart disease and other medical conditions appear to be at higher risk for more severe symptoms or complications if they contract COVID-19. February is American Heart Month and it is more important now more than ever to take the necessary steps to keep your heart healthy and happy!

Did you know that people who have close relationships at home, work, or in their community tend to be healthier and live longer? One reason, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), is that we are more successful at meeting our health goals when we join forces with others. NHLBI launched the #OurHearts movement to inspire us to protect and strengthen our hearts with the support of others. 

Here are some facts, how-to tips, and resources to inspire you to join with others to improve your heart health.  

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. About 90 percent of middle-aged people and more than 74 percent of young adults have one or more risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, or being a smoker or overweight. Having multiple risk factors increases your risk for heart disease.



HEART ATTACK  SYMPTOMS

CHEST DISCOMFORT

Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

DISCOMFORT IN OTHER AREAS OF THE UPPER BODY

Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

SHORTNESS OF BREATH

With or without chest discomfort.

OTHER SIGNS

May include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.


Why Connecting is Good for Your Heart

Feeling connected with others and having positive, close relationships benefit our overall health, including our blood pressure and weight. Having people in our lives who motivate and care for us helps, as do feelings of closeness and companionship.  

Follow these heart healthy lifestyle tips with your friends, family, coworkers, and others in your community and you will all be heart healthier for it. 

  • Be more physically active. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a nutritious diet.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Reduce your stress.
  • Get enough quality sleep.
  • Track your heart health stats. 

You do not have to make big changes all at once. Small steps will get you where you want to go. 



You’ve Got to Move It, Move It – Staying Heart Healthy During COVID-19

As with exercising at any time, it is important to be safe, wear good footwear, start slowly, and give your muscles and tendons time to adapt to any new activity. Always seek your physician’s advice if you have any underlying health conditions, take medication for a heart problem or to control blood pressure or blood sugar, or experience dizziness, balance problems, or joint issues. And if you feel pain during an activity, STOP.

Get outside as much as possible. Unless you are under a stay-at-home order or you need to remain in quarantine, try to exercise outside as much as possible. Take a walk, jog, or ride a bike outside, just remember to wear a mask and/or maintain a safe distance from others. The fresh air and sunshine will provide a further boost to your mental health.

Keep your workouts interesting. Watch your favorite streaming show or listen to a podcast or some great music while working out. While walking, explore a new trail system or area in your neighborhood or catch up with a friend on the phone to keep things from getting stale. Or try activity video games or “exergames” that simulate dancing, skateboarding, soccer, bowling, or tennis. These can be great alternatives if you are unable to participate in the real thing now.

Be mindful. Immerse yourself in the full experience of walking outdoors by adding a mindfulness element. Notice the smell of the air, the variety of flowers and trees and the feel of the sun or the wind as you move. Bringing your attention to these things can give your conscious mind a break from your worries and unleash your creativity. You might find new ideas and solutions coming to you when you weren’t even aware you were working on them. If you find you need to up the intensity of your walks, look for hills, do some step ups on the curb at each corner, skip, or even jump up and down the curb a few times (if appropriate for your fitness level and joints).

Try something new. Always wanted to try barre exercise, line dancing, cardio funk, or HIIT (high-intensity interval training)? Find a free video online, subscribe to one of the many online classes available, or download an app to guide you from the safety of your own home. Many people find they are more comfortable trying something new when no one else is watching. You just might find your new passion! Try boxing, Pilates, or yoga. Don’t be intimidated to try something new and refine your online search to be more  specific to your needs, like ‘yoga for over 50’, ‘golf-specific exercises’ or ‘basic Pilates for beginners’. There are many new, and often free, classes being posted daily to support people in their fitness pursuits during the pandemic. Just remember to avoid causing pain. 

Here are a few of our favorites:

8fit Workouts   |   Blogilate   |   Fitbit Coach   |   FitOn   |   Forte   |   The Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout   |   Keelo   |   Nike Training Club   |   Openfit   |   Shred

Join the kids. Play catch or tag, go for a bike ride, shoot baskets, or pass the soccer ball with your kids. Taking the focus away from schoolwork or chores and playing together can even help repair a strained relationship.

Miss the gym? Create a home workout area. If you have space available, designate an inviting area of your home to exercise and keep your equipment handy. Try using resistance bands, water bottles, or your own body weight to perform resistance exercises. You could start by doing push-ups against the wall then progress to doing them against the kitchen counter, the coffee table, and finally the floor. Have stairs in your house? Stair climbing is an efficient strength training activity. Keep one foot on a step and step up and down several times (or try stepping up two steps for an even tougher workout).



WAYS TO GET INVOLVED

Each February, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and The Heart Truth® celebrate American Heart Month by motivating Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles to prevent heart disease. Research shows that we are more successful at meeting personal health goals when we join forces with others.

This American Heart Month, join them to inspire and motivate yourself and those you love to make heart health a regular part of your self-care routine. When we support each other, we are more likely to stick with our goals and improve our heart health.

Use the hashtags below for your #hearthealthy social media posts.



Sources: American Heart Association, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, WebMD

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