5 To Know – Tips to Achieve Heart Health

Do you want to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle? Here are five ways that you can do just that.

1. Move often

Did you know that repeated physical inactivity will remodel your body’s ability to regulate your metabolism? In other words, when you sit more than you move your body will store more calories in the form of body fat and/or as elevated levels of cholesterol (fat) and glucose (sugar) in your blood stream. Our muscles are designed to burn calories each time they “fire up” during movement.

Take Action: Try standing during your phone conversations or while you check emails to send calorie-burning signals to your muscles. Using the timer in your smart phone or pick up an inexpensive kitchen timer, each time you sit down set the timer to go off in 120-minutes. When the alarm sounds, get up and move or stand for 10-minutes. Standing or stepping it up = improved caloric burn.

2.  Build muscles

Is there more of you to love now vs. when you were 10 – 20 years younger? Did you know that our bodies will lose muscle mass each decade after age 30 – especially if we do not exercise on a regular basis? That translates to a 7 – 10% loss of calorie-burning ability with every 10 years of age! Think of your muscles as cylinders in an engine – the more cylinders in your engine, the more fuel (calories) you will burn, even at rest.

Take Action: Add strength training moves to your activities at least 3 days a week. Incorporate mini-strength intervals into your day – try push-ups against the wall or off the kitchen counter, add several sets of sit-squats by sliding down a wall or in front of a park bench during a walk. Gradually add strengthening exercises for your arms, back, chest and legs using: body weight, dumbbells, resistance bands, Kettlebells, or water (aqua exercises.) Strong muscles = improved capability!

3.  Fill up with Fiber

The powerhouse nutritional ingredient to focus on is fiber. Dietary fiber fills you up faster and acts a sponge in your gut to help maintain digestive and metabolic regularity. That sponge-like consistency from soluble fiber helps your body to better regulate blood cholesterol (fat) and glucose (sugar) levels especially when paired with adequate amounts of water. Women under age 50 should strive to consume 25 grams a day (38 grams for men.) If you are over 50, women should aim for 21 grams a day (30 grams for men.).

Take Action: Reach for higher fiber foods vs. supplements to boost the overall nutritional value. Check the nutrition labels to choose whole grain products that pack 4 or more grams of fiber per serving. Add peas, beans or broccoli to soups and salads. Garnish your plate with berries, un-pealed pears or apples to deliciously surpass your daily fiber intake goals. Fiber = your nutritional BFF!

4.  Choose quality calories over quantity calories

Which 100-calorie food will provide you the most health benefit, a medium-sized apple or a snack-sized packet of chocolate-chip cookies? Foods that are high in fiber, anti-oxidants, heart healthy fats (Omega-3,) and minerals work to boost our immune system and help to regulate levels of blood cholesterol (fat) and glucose (sugar.).

Take Action: Fill half of your plate with brightly-colored fruits and veggies and complement them with whole grains, nuts, beans, wild- caught fish from cold waters, and low-fat dairy to strengthen your health-boosting nutrients. Reduce your intake of foods/beverages that are packed with calories from sugar, salt and saturated fats and/or trans-fats. Quality fuel intake = optimal performance.

5.  Recharge your batteries

How many hours of sleep does it take for you to perform at you best? The National Sleep Foundation recommends at least 7 hours for all adults over age 18. Sleep provides restorative therapy for our brain and body insuring optimal performance during waking hours. Ask yourself these questions:

Do I have any chronic illness such as high blood pressure or diabetes? Do I need caffeine to boost me up throughout the day? Have I felt sleepy while driving or after sitting still for bit? Am I frequently moody or irritable? Do I experience interrupted sleep? If you have answered yes to two or more of these questions, you may be experiencing sleep debt.

Take Action: Keep a sleep log for a few weeks to identify the hours of sleep that your body desires to perform at your best. Create a sleep prep routine that includes; unplugging electronic devices and avoid caffeine alcohol at least an hour before bedtime. Try upgrading your pillows or bed linens to create a spa-like sensation, add relaxing scents like lavender, and keep your bedroom cool and dark. If interrupted sleep becomes constant, talk to your healthcare provider about a sleep study to identify possible underlying medical causes. Quality sleep = optimally performing mind, body & spirit.

About the Author

Barbara Ferrari is a registered nurse, is the Heart Health Coordinator at the Ingalls Wellness Center in Homewood. Ms. Ferrari has focused on early detection and heart disease prevention since 2003. She also facilitates the Ingalls My Life My Health collection of online health risk assessments, including HeartAware.

Ms Ferrari is also a certified faciliator of the Freedom From Smoking and the Take Charge of Your Health programs.  Ms. Ferrari is a personal fitness trainer at the Homewood-Flossmoor Racquet & Fitness Club in Homewood, where she has been a fitness team member since 1993. She currently leads a weekly Back, Belly & Balance class.


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