Put Your Heart (Health) First

Happy post-Valentine’s Day! On a daily basis, all of us combine our compassion, charity, and action to serve our communities and nation. I consider “service” one of the greatest sources of happiness. Nonetheless, one must fully take care of their well being before attempting to care for others’. For the month of February, focus attention on the centerpiece of your love, compassion, and health—your heart.

5 Heart-Health Tips

1. Chocolate, Wine, and Berries… The Darker the Better

  • Dark chocolate, unlike milk or white chocolate, contains high amounts of catechins, a heart healthy antioxidant. Aim for chocolate with 70% or higher cacao.
  • Red wine, in comparison to other alcoholic beverages, contains more flavonoids and antioxidants. Two 4-ounce glasses of wine per day provide maximum heart health.
  • Berries are known to have the highest concentration of antioxidants among all fruits and vegetables. Get your share of cranberries, blackberries, and blueberries.

2. Laugh Your Heart Out:

Laugh, smile, and/or just think positive thoughts; there is a mind-body connection. Unmanaged stress and anger can raise blood pressure. Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation. Also, people with depression are four times more likely to have a heart attack. Seeking professional help is a needed first step in your heart health.

3. Move Your Body, Pump Your Heart:

Cardiovascular exercise increases your heart rate and makes you breathe harder. Thus it strengthens the muscle, your heart. Brisk walking is an effective heart-pumping activity. Try taking a brisk 20-minute walk during your lunch break several times a week.

4. Eat Real Foods:

Include a hefty portion of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fiber into your diet. These foods are rich in flavonoids, minerals, and vitamins. Don’t forget low-fat dairy products. Also avoid trans fat and limit saturated fat and cholesterol in your food choices. I know (yawn)! But packaged processed foods loaded with sugar, bad fat and salt provide little to no nutritional value.

5. Know Your Family’s Heart 411:

Your heart health may depend on your family’s genes as well as lifestyle. If a close relative developed heart disease and/or a heart attack, your chances are significantly higher than someone with no family heart issues. However, genetics is not destiny. Know your family’s heart health status for better care and prevention of your own well being.

According to the American Heart Association, estimates for the year 2006 indicated over 81 million Americans having one or more forms of cardiovascular disease leading to 830,000 lives’ lost. Continue your excellent service to others but remember to serve yourself first. Take care of your heart and overall well being.

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