No! I slept through it! National Wear Red Day was yesterday February 3rd and I slept through it. I worked 7p-7a the night before and spent the day in bed. Under a red blanket at least? Nope. It was a white one.
February is the month for matters of the heart. I may have missed the 3rd, but I still have the rest of the month to focus on heart health awareness.
Over the past ten years or so the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute got together and have made an effort to bring women’s heart health to the forefront of our awareness. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States. It stands to reason that we should be addressing it.
Regardless of your gender, do you know your numbers? What was your last HDL (the “good” cholesterol)? Was it high enough? If not – do you have a plan to raise it? If it was good at last check – how are you keeping it that way? What was your LDL (the “bad” cholesterol)? If it was high, do you have a plan to lower it? If it was good, have you patted yourself on the back for taking good care of yourself?
The fact is that some cardiac risk factors are out of our control. For example, age and genetics are not something we can change. That is why it is so important to take advantage of those risk factors that we can affect such as activity, nutrition, stress, and smoking.
Do yourself a favor and take care of yourself. The last thing you want to do is find yourself in an uncomfortable hospital bed looking up at a nurse 🙂
Start by staying active. For many of us life has become more sedentary. We sit at a desk 8 hours a day and spend even more hours sitting in a car commuting to the office. More and more, staying active is a conscious decision. Find some activities you enjoy and get out there and enjoy the heck out of them.
Another way we can influence our numbers is by eating healthy. The old joke is if it tastes good spit it out. I think as a society we have allowed the food industry to hijack our ideas of what tastes good. I feel we are just beginning to wake up and see sugar and caffeine addictions that are brought to us by the food industry in effort to get into our pockets. It’s time to wake up and realize that they don’t have our health interests in mind. They have their bottom line in mind. You might be surprised to discover that if you cut back on obvious added sugars and caffeine you’ll find your way back to whole foods that do taste good and don’t have to be spit out.
Besides activity and nutrition, you want to keep an eye on your stress levels. In my humble opinion this can be a form of addiction as well. People get competitive with their busy schedules with the end result of being stressed out. Increased stress can lead to not getting enough sleep and negative affects on the body including the heart. Elevated cortisol levels have been associated with high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, and increased cholesterol levels. Being aware of stress levels is step number one. Evaluate your lifestyle and how you might make changes to reduce stress.
Lastly, no smoking. Many people think of cigarettes and tobacco products and think only of cancers risks. However the effects of smoking go beyond that. You may realize tobacco products can increase blood pressure. Did you know the chemicals in tobacco products can also increase the risk of plaque build up or atherosclerosis? New vaping options also pose risks and may not be as benign as is often maintained. It is not easy to quit, but it can be done. There are lots of success stories to prove it. Again, it is a conscious decision to quit. Nobody can do it for you.
This February remember that matters of the heart go beyond the physical.
Share your love and we will all benefit.
Photo by Kristina Litvjak