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February is Heart Health Month

5 Contributors to Heart Health

Remember these 5 topics to make positive changes to the behaviors that contribute the most to your health and wellbeing.  We all have areas in life that we need to improve. Take baby steps and focus on just one area at a time until you’ve learned the best way for you to make healthy choices.

1. Mental Energy

“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.”

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing

Wellness is all about balance!  We can’t be stress free and happy all the time, and it is detrimental to be the opposite, depressed and lethargic. Balancing your mental energy takes practice and it starts with learning how to be aware of your actions and reactions to external forces. When you pay attention to your own state of mind, you can start to make better decisions without reacting from a place of panic and stress.

Tips for Daily Mindfulness:

  • Take a few brain-breaks throughout the day to focus on understanding your energy levels and observe the activity going on around you.
  • Try keeping a mood diary (on paper/phone app/e-calendar) by recording an emoticon that accurately describes how you feel and review it often.  Hindsight is 20/20 – you may get insight on how certain time periods affect good and bad decision making.
  • Practice “mindful eating.” This is a method of slowing down and appreciating the sustenance you are giving yourself to nourish your body and mind.
  • Read more on Mindful.org: https://www.mindful.org/how-to-practice-mindfulness/

2. Physical Energy

“If you don’t want to sweat the numbers, just move more!”

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness

The pressure to be physically fit and active often comes with a lot of baggage in the form of guilt and insecurity.  It can become a contest, and you start to think “If I can’t win, then I just won’t play.” A little healthy competition is designed to get us motivated and challenge ourselves, but if that pressure becomes too much for you, then it’s time to change the game plan – not time to forfeit.

Tips for Everyday Fitness:

  • Rewrite your excuses! The next time you hear yourself coming up with an excuse to not be physically active, use your creativity to change it into a challenge for yourself.  Maybe you haven’t been taking the stairs at work because your office is on the 10th floor.  Try getting off the elevator on the 8th floor to walk up 2 flights and always take the stairs down.
  • Take your meetings on the move.  Walking actually increases creativity in your brain.  The next meeting you have, take it outside or walk the stairs instead of sitting around a desk or conference table.
  • Read more on Heart.org: How to Be More Active at Work

3. Nutrition

“Healthy eating starts with healthy food choices. You don’t need to be a chef to create nutritious, heart-healthy meals your family will love. Learn what to look for at the grocery store, restaurants, your workplace, and any eating occasion.”

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating>

Food has a powerful effect on how we feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.  We all get in food ruts!  If your area of weakness is making bad diet decisions, improve it by making changes one day at a time.

Tips for making healthy food choices “One day at a time”:

  • Start with one meal or one snack, and don’t include any processed ingredients, only whole foods.  Reaching for a candy bar?  Try an apple and a handful of almonds instead.  Replace those Cheetos in your desk drawer with an orange and some trail mix.
  • Combat quick food.  It’s easy when you’re tired or in a rush to make unhealthy food decisions. Make a quick food list you can refer back to that includes healthy foods you know you like and are readily accessible.  Plan ahead for over-scheduled days with pre-made meals from the freezer that you can quickly heat up.  Keep a stash of healthy snacks in your car when you’re running in between appointments.
  • Make your food into a sensory feast!  Eating is sensory – your eyes, taste buds, and olfactory senses all have a say in what you like to eat.  Take just one day to plan a healthy meal that is colorful and has your favorite tastes and smells to give your body a treat.
  • Read more about Eating the Rainbow
    4.

  • Heart Health at Work Heart Health at Work – If you have a full time job, then you spend a third of your weekdays at work!  Your environment, teammates, and company culture can all have an impact on your heart health.  Assess your habits and your environment at work and see where you can make small improvements to break bad habits.

Heart Health at Work

If you have a full-time job, then you spend a third of your weekdays at work!  Your environment, teammates, and company culture can all have an impact on your heart health.  Assess your habits and your environment at work and see where you can make small improvements to break bad habits.

Tips for heart healthy work environments:

  • Team up with an accountability buddy to make better decisions together.  If your daily lunch ritual is to raid the vending machine together, try setting a goal to bring each other healthy snacks once a week.
  • Stand instead of sit. Sitting is the new smoking! If you can get your hands on an adjustable sit/stand desk, great!  If not, try to find times when you can stand and stretch while working, like on conference calls or long webinars.
  • Try some deep breathing!  When you get caught up in work or try to beat a deadline, you can lose track of mindful breathing.  It’s a quick break that can help us calm down and recalibrate. Try this – inhale to a count of five and exhale to a count of five. Try this for a few minutes throughout the day to de-stress and be more present in your work.
  • Read more tips on creating healthy habits at work: Six healthy habits for the workplace that you can adopt right now

5. Smoking & Tabacco Cessation

Yeah, yeah, yeah … you know smoking is bad for you.  If you seriously want to change your bad habits and make heart healthy improvements, then you may want to forgo all of the others just to tackle this gargantuan. If you needed a sign to quit using tobacco, consider this your sign!

Tips for Quitting Tobacco

  • Make lists. Write down why you want to quit, why you don’t want to quit, why it’s hard to quit, what you’ll do with all that money you save (1 pack a day habit = ~$240/month or $2,880/year), and anything else that will help you cement your goal.  Get those written down on paper and use them as a reminder of why you should quit despite how hard it is.
  • Release the guilt. It’s hard to be a smoker these days (tiny violin playing for you) with everyone constantly criticizing you and telling you how much it smells, and it’s gross, etc.  You have to quit for you, so stop listening to everyone else so you can listen to yourself about why you are using tobacco and what triggers you to use throughout the day.
  • Keep trying! If it’s the first time you’ve tried to quit or the twentieth, you are probably going to have some slip-ups. That doesn’t mean you failed completely, so don’t give up. Just avoid those triggers or plan ahead for how you’ll deal with them.
  • Get help. Many workplaces offer tobacco cessation programs and insurance covered medications and therapies. Research and use every avenue you can to find out what works for you.
  • Read other people’s quit stories:  10 Quit Stories from Successful Ex-Smokers From

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