By Sarah Balke
According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. Heart health should be a major concern for all Americans. In fact, heart disease causes more deaths each year than all types of cancers combined.
If you find yourself binge watching your favorite show, sitting behind a desk or the wheel for extended periods of time, or gaming for hours, you are increasing your risk for heart disease. It’s time to take advantage of your break times and shut off the TV.
Here are 7 easy things you can do to help improve heart health:
- Plan your snacks: Eating 5 servings of fruits or vegetables each day is a great to get started eating a heart healthy diet. Replace the bag of chips from a vending machine with a handful of baby carrots or an apple you bring from home.
- Take a break: If you have a job that requires you sit for long periods, do your heart a favor and don’t skip your breaks. Get up and get moving. Take a brisk 10-minute walk with coworkers to get some social time in and make the walk more enjoyable.
- Use an activity tracker: There are so many different options when it comes to tracking your activity in the form of steps, flights, calories burned, distance, etc. Start paying attention to the number of steps you complete each day. Everything is always better with friends. Find a social fitness app that you can use and share the information with your friends. This is especially effective if you enjoy a little bit of fun competition!
- Prep your meals and read your food labels: Check and see if the food that you are using includes added sugar, salt, fat, or other ingredients to improve the products flavor. According to the FDA, over 70% of dietary sodium intake comes from eating packaged and prepared foods, not from salt added to food when cooking or eating. Prepping your meals ahead of time will help keep you on track.
- Stop drinking your calories: Obesity is a major contributing factor to cardiovascular heart disease. While alcohol is often the first thing that comes to mind when we think about drinking calories, the gourmet coffee trend is also a huge contributing factor. Did you know that one 20 oz. cup of your favorite mocha could be contributing over 500 calories, or 25%, of the recommended daily calorie intake? If you substitute three of these sugary drinks each week with unsweetened coffee or tea, you can reduce you calorie intake by as much as 78,000 calories per year - that’s over 22 lbs. of fat!
- Sleep more: Good quality sleep is good for your heart, according to Mayo Clinic. As a starting point, try setting a goal to get at least 8 hours of good quality sleep. If you find your sleep is disturbed by neck pain or headaches, consider trying an orthopedic pillow to support your neck and help improve your sleeping posture.
- Get up between episodes: We’ve all been there, early Saturday morning, exhausted from a stressful week and want nothing more than to lounge on the couch binge watching our favorite show. Take a break between episodes to vacuum, dust, wash dishes, take a shower, or make the bed. Not only will you feel better about your environment, you will also get up and get moving.
While all of these things are easy to do, they can be hard to do each day. Make a conscious effort to improve your heart health for yourself and those you love!