Protecting heart health is key for people trying to maintain their overall well-being. Heart disease has become so prevalent among adults in the U.S. that the condition accounts for an estimated one in every four deaths that occur each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a health professional, remind patients that simply improving their diet and making an effort to stay physically active can drastically reduce their risk of experiencing a life-threatening heart condition.
February is American Heart Month when people are encouraged to assess their cardiovascular health and familiarize themselves with the risk factors of heart disease. Get your patients ready for Heart Month with a few pieces of advice on how to maintain their heart health. Here are a few tips you may want to mention.
1. Eat more nuts
As high cholesterol levels are a common trigger for declining heart health, suggesting that patients swap out chips or popcorn for nuts can be particularly effective. Nuts are filling and will help get cholesterol levels down. Walnuts contain a large amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to keep the heart healthy by reducing inflammation in the arteries. However, eating nuts in moderation is important, as they're high in calories, which can lead to weight gain.
2. Be careful about when you eat
In addition to what people eat, it's also key that they're paying close attention to when they're eating. Everyday Health stressed the importance of eating breakfast every morning to get the body's metabolism started. Suggest breakfast foods that are high in fiber, such as oatmeal or a vegetable omelet. It's often a good idea to snack during mid-morning and late afternoon, as this ensures people are satisfied and don't overeat during mealtimes. However, eating a meal right before bed can cause weight gain and heart burn, so remind patients to plan their dinners and snacks at least a couple of hours before their usual bedtimes. These simple strategies will help your patients prevent unhealthy weight gain and high cholesterol and blood pressure.
3. Maintain healthy relationships
According to ABC News, studies have shown that spending time with a loved one can keep the heart healthy and functioning properly. Although various research has shown different explanations for the healthy effects socializing has on the heart, such as reduced blood pressure levels, there is not one known cause for these beneficial impacts.
"It could be that secure social ties lead to better health habits and less depression," Dr. Richard Becker, a professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center and a spokesman for the American Heart Association, told ABC News. "It could also be due to neurological and hormonal changes that lessen stress and anxiety."
Suggest that patients take advantage of social groups at their assisted living facilities or reach out to loved ones whom they may have lost touch with. This engagement has also been shown to contribute to healthy brain function.
4. Save time for relaxation
Encourage patients to reserve time to relax and enjoy the simple things in life. This could be done through meditation, yoga or setting an hour or so aside each day to do one of their favorite hobbies. The American Heart Association explained that relaxation has been linked to lower blood pressure levels. When people allow stress or anxiety to affect them, this puts strain on their heart, which also makes relaxation key. Getting enough sleep each night is also essential to coping with high stress levels and maintaining a healthy heart.
5. Get moving
It's true that physical activity is a crucial component to keeping heart health in check. However, simply making more of an effort to move every day is also very effective at keeping the heart strong. For example, instead of taking the elevator, recommend choosing the stairs. If patients normally drive or get a ride to their weekly reading group and the meeting spot is within walking distance, suggest walking instead.
Encourage patients to remember that if they began making an effort to get in their 150 minutes of exercise per week, but need to take a break one day, this shouldn't discourage them from continuing their new weekly routine. People often get discouraged when they feel their bodies need a break, but once they've recovered, it's important to continue.
Suggest doing a heart screening on your patients as well to ensure that everything, from their blood pressure levels to their body mass index, is in good shape.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living