Heart-Health Valentine’s Day Tips

*This article was originally published on the American Heart Association’s website.

Your sweetheart may have the key to your heart, but eating healthy and being physically active can be the key to a healthier heart. This Valentine’s Day, indulge your sweetheart with a heart-healthy gift or date.

  • Rather than tempting your beloved with sweets, consider a gift that has more permanence. Search for a poem that describes your feelings and write it on beautiful paper for a handmade Valentine. Or visit www.ShopHeart.org for gift ideas that benefit the American Heart Association.
  • Quality time is one of the most meaningful gifts. Bundle up and plan an active outing such as sledding, ice-skating, gathering wood for a fire, or if you’re feeling adventurous, visit an indoor rock wall.
  • If your kids are having a Valentine’s Day party at their school or day care, instead of sending candies, consider raisins, grapes, and whole-grain pretzels, colored pencils or stickers as tokens of their friendly affection.
  • Cooking at home is an excellent way to control what and how much you eat. Take a date to a local cooking class to practice your skills or learn a new technique.
  • Give to one another by giving back. Ask a date to volunteer with you at a local organization. Giving back is a healthy habit that can boost your mood and help beat stress.
  • Use this day as an opportunity to tell your loved one how important they are to you, and share ways that you can support each other’s health and wellness. Get started by taking the My Life Check Assessment.
  • Craving something sweet? Gift a beautiful fresh fruit basket to your loved one instead of giving sweets with added sugars.
  • Sharing is caring – if you go out for a romantic dinner date, order one entrée to share. Many restaurant servings are enough for two – splitting will keep you from overdoing it.
  • Don’t forget to love Fido, too! Give your pet a Valentine and remember to walk or exercise them daily – getting active with your pet will benefit your health and your bond with your pets.
  • Take it slow – if you receive a luxurious box of chocolates from your sweetie, stick it in the freezer and enjoy in moderation over the next several weeks.
  • Take a long, romantic walk with your beloved – and try to make it a regular habit. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each week to help keep your heart healthy. You can reach this goal by walking briskly for at least 30 minutes five days each week.

  • Rekindle an old flame – try preparing one of your sweetie’s favorite recipes in a healthier way. These healthy substitutions can help you cut down on saturated fats, trans fats, salt (sodium), and added sugars, while noticing little, if any, difference in taste.
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Go Red for Women and Fight Heart Disease

The American Heart Association hosts what is known as the Go Red For Women movement. Go Red for Women is urging everyone to support the battle against heart disease by wearing red on National Wear Red Day® – Friday, Feb. 5. National Wear Red Day is a campaign created to raise awareness in the battle against heart disease in women.

Thousands of people, employees, companies, news anchors, reporters and television personalities will be wearing red to show their support. Both men and women everywhere are encouraged to participate and show their support by wearing red on Feb. 5.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women.  It is the cause of 1 in 3 deaths every year. Some statistics report that heart disease kills one woman per minute. Further, statistics report that an estimated 43 million women in the United States are impacted by cardiovascular disease. 90% of all women have at least one risk factor of heart disease. It does not affect all women alike.  To further confuse us, the warning signs for women aren’t the same in men.

Because the warning signs are different, often not immediately recognized and 80% of incidents related to heart disease and/or stroke are preventable, the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement pushes for taking faster action and more research when it comes to women’s heart health.

For more information, resources and tips on how to recognize the signs of stroke, reduce your risk for heart disease and more visit the Go Red for Women website.

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Easy Ways to Get Moving


February 1 is the first day of the American Heart Health Month. With cardiovascular disease being the leading cause of death among American men and women, its critical that we learn to recognize the signs of heart disease and also take steps to prevent it.

The American Heart Associations says that for every hour of regular exercise that you get, you gain two hours of life. That’s two more hours with your loved ones, your children, your grandchildren or simply enjoying being able to do more and live healthier.

For those of us not interested in body building, running marathons or doing the Insanity workout every day for the rest of our lives, that means finding ways to exercise and be more active during our daily allotment of 24 hours. If you work a full time job, sleep (or try to) 7-8 hours a night, you probably use your remaining 8 hours/day cooking, household needs, running errands, helping kids with homework, studying and managing the daily needs of life. Sometimes adding in an exercise routine can seem impossible. And face it: Some of us don’t like the thought of exercising. We consider it a necessary evil. It’s no wonder we aren’t overly excited about working it in to the day. It’s why we need to look at other ways of getting more movement into our lives and gradually adding to it.

We can privately wish that our bodies would just wake up feeling all excited about the concept of exercising. The reality is different though. Our body is just a body. Without training it to do certain things, it won’t naturally want to. Sometimes, we just have to grab a big ol’ slice of determination and decide to move more and be more active.

Easy Ways to Get Moving

The American Heart Association says adults need 30 minutes of exercise, five days per week and kids need 60 minutes every day.

The good news is that many studies (like this one) have shown that children with active parents will also be more active and less sedentary. So, the little strategies you work into your life now aren’t going unnoticed. You can pass on healthy habits to your children at the same time you are building them within your own body and mind.

So, what are some ways you can work physical activity into your life and, if you have kids, their lives, too?

Take the “long way,” the stairs, and park far way. Yes, we’ve heard this one many times. Still, we’ve heard it because it works the more you do it. When you are with your children, they see you choosing the more active routes and will be likely to imitate you as they get older. Parking at the back of the lot adds a little more movement into your day as does taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Replace dessert with a walk and more quality family time. You’re not only making a choice that is good for you, you are also making memories and helping each other live longer, healthier lives.

Find ways to make housecleaning involve more movement. We know of one nine year old who dances with the vacuum cleaner. He sings loudly and stretches and pushes the vacuum with all his might.  Even does a few twirls. What if we, as adults, were to do the same? Maybe add a few lunges in to the mix? Our kids would laugh with delight and we might crack a smile, too.

Invest in a Wearable Fitness Device. It’s fun for adults and kids alike. Wearable fitness technology will count your steps, challenge you and even allow you to compete with friends. The current escalation in wearable fitness devices like Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin and Apple Watch is having a strong impression on our health habits.  This is great news because fitness devices utilizing text messages have already been proven to help promote regular activity and even possibly alleviate other illnesses like depression, stroke and diabetes.

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15 Heart Healthy Foods You Should Be Eating


February is American Heart Health Month and it’s just around the corner. As we wrap up January 2016 and another round of goals and New Year’s resolutions, it may also be just the right moment to add a new goal: embracing heart healthy options.

Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease, blood pressure and even stroke, causes one out of every three deaths. It is also the No. 1 killer of American women and men.  It is one of the foremost causes of disabilities and major illnesses.

Nearly half of all Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease and most do not know how to recognize signs of heart disease.

This week’s Eat Smart post wants to remind you to familiarize yourself with the signs of heart disease, have your blood pressure checked regularly and consider adapting your diet to include heart healthy foods. There are many websites that are dedicated to providing heart healthy recipes and heart healthy meal plans.

See below for 15 heart healthy foods and click here an infographic providing information on 17 different foods that are good for you and your heart.

P.S.  Friday, February 5 is National Wear Red Day in recognition of American Heart Health Month.

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Can Text Messages Improve Your Health?

Depending on whom you are talking to, text messaging can be blessing or a curse.  More and more cities are passing laws against cell phone usage and texting while driving. Relationship experts will tell you it’s impersonal and discourages real communication. Educators will say it is a threat to civilization, professionalism and society in general, because texting condones poor spelling, grammatical errors and slang.

What if text messaging or “Intelli-Messaging,” such as Walkingspree provides for its clients, was proven to encourage healthy habits like exercise and (indirectly) alleviate symptoms of disease, depression and stroke?

A study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association found that using text messaging with a group of patients at risk for heart disease led to significant increases in physical activity levels.  JAHA calls it a “texting intervention.”

48 smartphone users (aged 18 to 69) who were also at risk for heart disease, enrolled in a five-week study. They were divided into three groups:

1)    a blinded group that could not interface with their physical activity data (see their results and stats via mobile app or online) or receive any text messages

2) an unblinded group that could interface with physical activity data (see their results and stats via mobile app or online) but did not receive texts

3)     an unblinded group that could interface with physical activity data (see their results and stats via mobile app or online) and also received texts.

Participants in all three groups were given wearable fitness trackers and set a goal of walking 10,000 steps per day.

Using an automated messaging system like the one that Walkingspree provides its clients, personalized texts were sent to the participants in the unblinded text-receiving group.  These participants received encouraging messages or praise focused on their level of physical activity. Data about their physical activity was obtained using the real-time tracking feature from their fitness trackers. These participants received encouraging text messages three times a day.

The findings concluded that automated tracking-texting intervention increased physical activity.  Participants in the unblinded text-receiving group walked an average of 2,334 more steps per day than the other participants.

The groups that did not receive text messages maintained and spent the minimum suggested time engaging in physical activity. However, the group that received texts increased its total activity time by 21 minutes per day. They showed a 23 percent increase in total activity but they also had a 160 percent increase in aerobic time!  (These participants increased aerobic activity by 13 minutes per day).

Results

When the five-week study was over, nearly twice as many participants in the text-receiving group accomplished the 10,000 steps per day goal compared with the other groups. The study lends support to the concept of wearable tracking devices facilitating behavior and even lifestyle changes.  The researchers concluded that being able to see and interact with physical activity data alone did not yield improvement without the text message intervention. This is why walking and wellness programs like Walkingspree’s are so effective. Devotees of walking have long advocated the health benefits. Walking is consistently proven to combat obesity, alleviate and help prevent Type 2 diabetes, combat depression, lower blood pressure and help prevent stroke.

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