Heart disease is still the no. 1 killer for all Americans. Sad to say, but it’s been especially prevalent among African American women for a minute. Could the reasons be genetic? Possibly. But we do know for sure that showing the heart some daily TLC will keep it healthy and working longer. A new American Heart Association (AHA) report that 103 million Americans have high blood pressure means we’ve got work to do! Here are some top, doable ways to take care of your heart and enhance your life.
Cut back on the processed foods and choose a diet with a plant-based foundation. Enjoy more fruits instead of candy. Drink more water than soda or sugary drinks. Before you eat your food, ask yourself: “What’s the nutritional benefit for me?” If there is none, think hard about your choices. We like the 80/20 rule of eating. Eat healthy MOST of the time, and allow yourself a treat now and then. Need help? Try these clean eating tips!
Watch the fat
Cut back on the saturated fats in your foods. That may mean eating less meat, if you’re a meat-eater. Or, choose leaner cuts. Trim that fat off and you’ll have an easier time of trimming fat off your waistline. Watch your consumption of full-fat dairy products, too. Leave trans fats alone. You’ll find them in some of the processed foods we mentioned above. Trans fats drive up your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol level. If you see the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on the nutrition label, those are your trans culprits.
Turn off the TV, shut down your phone, hit the sleep button on your laptop and then go to sleep yourself. Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough quality sleep put themselves at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. If you’re having problems sleeping, find out why. Is it time for a new mattress? A new pillow? A change in lifestyle? Get to the bottom of it and work on getting at least 7 hours a night.
See the doctor regularly.
Have your blood pressure checked on a consistent basis. If you’re under 40, every few years. If you’re on the other side of 40, you should put the blood pressure cuff on once a year. Pharmacies like CVS are offering free heart heart health screenings during the month of February. You can also buy the home variety for convenience. If you do have high blood pressure, listen to your doctor’s advice. Take action by limiting salt and eating healthier, fresh foods, exercising and learning how to cope with stress.
It’s imperative that you get in some daily exercise. No, you don’t have to go flipping tires in a Crossfit class, but you have to get some movement in at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Moderate exercise can be a fast walk, a Zumba class or HIIT once or twice a week.
Smoking is just a stinky habit that pollutes our environment. Yeah, we said it. Worse, it’s awful for your body. Smoking increases blood pressure, decreases exercise tolerance and increases the tendency for blood to clot, according to the AHA. How? Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, leading to a build up of fatty material (atheroma) which narrows the artery. We won’t get anymore technical than this. Stop smoking. Period. That goes for e-cigs, too.
Find ways to spend more of your time enjoying life! When you’re not working, explore ways to either relax (meditation, yoga, a candle-lit bath) or take the edge off (kickboxing, good times with friends). Learn how to manage your time better so you have more “me” time. Avoid having a full plate of things to do, and get comfortable saying “no” when you need a break.
Don’t know the signs of heart attack? The AHA list these five symptoms for women:
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
- As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
Stacy Julien is editor in-chief of CRUSH, and is hunting for heart healthy, stress-free “me” time right now.