When we think of February we usually think of cold weather, snow, and Valentine’s Day. Yes, the day that you are either happy to buy your spouse or significant other a gift or you feel forced to get that gift. Some single people feel sad, others feel happy that they are single. Whatever you feel, the day happens, and we have no control over that. In addition to Valentine’s Day, there is also Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day. But did you know that February is also American Heart Month, a time when all people can focus on their cardiovascular health? The Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention shines a light on hypertension (high blood pressure), a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Let’s face it. Life is hard. We have good days; we have bad days. We turn the tv on and it’s doomsday everywhere. Whatever you believe it or not, this all affects your health.
So, what can we do about it besides move to a remote cabin in the mountains and live off the grid? We can take care of ourselves. We can shut off the news and other mental health deterrents. We can practice meditation; we can start a fitness’ program. We can stop eating fried and processed foods. We can once again go back to simpler things…We have the power to take back our health, both physical and mental.
Let’s start with exercise. exercise burns calories, which can help you maintain or reach a healthy weight. Regular exercise also improves factors linked to cardiovascular health, resulting in lower blood pressure, healthier cholesterol levels and better blood sugar regulation. And that’s not all: Exercise also promotes positive physiological changes, such as encouraging the heart’s arteries to dilate more readily. It also helps your sympathetic nervous system (which controls your heart rate and blood pressure) to be less reactive. But these changes may take weeks, months, or even years to reach their full effect so making the commitment it vital for your health success.
Let’s talk about chronic inflammation, a main contributor to heart issues. Inflammation is your body’s process of fighting against thing that harm it, like infections, injuries, and toxins, to heal itself. When something damages your cells, your body releases chemicals that trigger a response from your immune system. This response includes the release of antibodies and proteins, as well as increased blood flow to the damaged area. In the case of acute inflammation — like getting a cut on your knee or dealing with a cold — the whole process usually lasts for a few hours or a few days. Chronic inflammation happens when this response lingers, leaving your body in a constant state of alert. Over time, chronic inflammation may have a negative impact on your tissues and organs. Some research suggests that chronic inflammation could also play a role in a range of conditions, from cancer to stroke.
What can you do at home for inflammation treatment?
You may choose to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. You may choose to eat more foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, such as:
- Oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon, or sardines.
- Leafy greens like spinach and kale.
- Olive oil.
Eating too much of certain foods may increase inflammation.
If you have chronic inflammation, you may feel better if you avoid:
- Fried foods, including many fast -food items.
- Cured meats with nitrates, such as hot dogs.
- Highly refined oils and trans fats.
- Refined carbohydrates, such as sugar, pastries, or white bread.
How can you prevent inflammation?
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid 2nd hand smoke and quit smoking
- Exercising three to five times per week at least (daily exercise is best).
- Limiting your alcohol intake (maximum 2 ounces per day).
- Manage your stress with healthy tools such as meditation or journaling.
An insurance policy for your heart.
People at risk for heart disease often struggle with the uncertainty of knowing whether their arteries contain fatty plaque that might cause a heart attack. Unless they have symptoms, it’s hard to justify doing potentially invasive or expensive testing. What may be reassuring is to think of exercise as an insurance policy that may offer both short- and long-term protection for your heart. A single exercise session may protect the cardiovascular system for two to three hours… you’re training your heart to be more resilient, but that protection likely depends on reaching a certain intensity of exercise. Simply puttering around all day long (even if you’re on your feet much of the day) may not do the trick. To make your heart work hard enough to activate the metabolic molecular pathways responsible for preconditioning the heart, you need to engage in moderate to vigorous exercise. As for duration, 30 minutes a day is the sweet spot for nearly maximal health protection, and it’s ok to break that up into three 10-minute sessions. As always, if you’re not accustomed to getting any exercise, get clearance from your physician before starting.
Speaking of health insurance, Citywide has enrolled hundreds of individuals and families into the health insurance marketplace. They assist in helping to determine tax credits as well as viewing and selecting plans. They are an additional resource and added service at no extra monthly cost to your premium. They believe you deserve an agent that can assist you during the open enrollment and special election periods. They are agents for Highmark, Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley, and United Health Care. Let them guide you to the right plan for you!
People are realizing that what seemed important to them in their lives-materialism and consumerism-doesn’t work at all to make a happy heart. It actually makes an unhappy heart. And an unhappy world.