By Sandy Ruka, Executive Director - Visiting Nurse Homecare & Hospice of Carroll County
North Conway, NH -- Is the thought of starting an exercise or healthy eating plan overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be. You might be surprised to learn how much you can do in the comfort of your own home, regardless of your age, fitness level or health status. February is American Heart Month, so we’d like to share with you some little steps you can take to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, the underlying cause of 1 out of 3 deaths, according to the American Heart Association (www.heart.org).
As a home healthcare agency, our job is to help people remain at home as they recover or rehabilitate from an illness or injury. As such, we serve home people in their homes, and see first hand that not everyone has the ability to leave the house to get exercise.
The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that over 26% of adults do not engage in leisure time physical activity, yet remaining active is one of the best ways to achieve heart health. Physical activity is one of the AHA’s “Simple 7,” key health behaviors that impact cardiovascular health: not-smoking, physical activity, healthy diet, body weight, and control of cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
Try to incorporate extra movement into your day. Rock in a rocking chair. Sit in a chair and pump your legs. Do laps around the dining room table. Use water bottles or canned food to lift “weights.” Vacuum the carpet. 30 minutes of light housework can equal walking a mile. Do that every day and you’ll amass hundreds of miles a year -- all without the leaving the house!
Another “Simple 7” behavior to address involves a healthy diet. Prepare a list for grocery shopping and focus on healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables. Avoid canned vegetables and buy frozen instead for lower sodium levels. When it comes to your heart, what you eat matters:
Eat less saturated fats. Cut back on fatty meats, high-fat dairy, cakes, cookies, and butter. This includes pizza, burgers, and foods with creamy sauce or gravy.
Cut down on sodium (salt). Read the Nutrition Facts label and choose foods that are lower in sodium. Look for the low-sodium or “no salt added” types of canned soups, vegetables, packaged meals, snack foods, and lunch meats.
Get more fiber. Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to add fiber to your diet.
Do you have a friend or loved one who needs encouragement? Lots of people struggle to get enough physical activity and eat well. If someone you care about is having a hard time getting active and eating well, you can help. Suggest activities you can do together, such as taking a walk after dinner or before breakfast, doing stretches or choosing a new activity to do together. Most of all, be understanding. What are your loved one’s reasons for not being more active? Maybe he or she feels overwhelmed or embarrassed. Ask what you can do to be supportive. Know that change takes time, and that some physical activity is better than none! Celebrate small successes and point out positive choices.
You can make healthy changes to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Little steps in the right direction add up to a healthier heart. In closing, remember these tips from the AHA:
Watch your weight.
Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.
If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
Get active and eat healthy.
Keep these in mind this February, Heart Health Month!