By: Whittany Gibson, RD, RDN
Did you know that your heart is the most important muscle in your body? It literally controls all processes by pumping blood to every part of the body so we can operate and live. Our heart keeps us alive! We tend to take our heart for granted, knowing it naturally does its job ... until it doesn't. Don't wait until you develop complications to start taking care of your heart.
In order to take care of your heart, you must take care of your entire body. How? The answer you'll most likely hear will be "maintain a healthy weight" or "eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly." Sounds simple, right? Maybe not to you. Sure, it comes easier to some people than others. No matter the case, we all could use a little education and motivation when it comes to taking care of ourselves. It is understandable we have busy lives and it's hard to fit in exercise. Also, who has time to plan meals or to learn what's healthy and what's not? Today, we want whatever is most convenient and, in most cases, the more convenient choice is usually not the healthiest one for our bodies or our heart. So, what do we do?
You have one body, one life. How far will your body get you through your busy life and hectic schedule before you end up in your cardiologist's office (or worse) and with a list of medications that just keeps getting longer year after year? So slow down, take a pause, plan what is a priority for you and your body to stay healthy. Make a plan, and don't do it alone. Talk with your physician, dietitian, health coach or other professionals that can help you make a plan. Then, share your plan with someone; it helps to become more accountable to your goals.
But what should I include in my plan?
- A healthy diet. General guidelines can be followed and found on our page under the "Patient Information" tab. Visiting with a registered dietitian can also be extremely helpful. Your primary care provider should be able to recommend a dietitian who can help you with your specific needs, calorie goals or just provide you with education to better understand a generally healthy diet. Don't be afraid to ask questions. When I meet with patients, many of them are not familiar with the basics of nutrition. It's a learning process that must be understood and practiced. Generally, a diet focused on lean meats, low fat/non-fat dairy products, legumes/beans, nuts and seeds, whole fruits, vegetables and whole grains are recommended to keep a healthy weight.
- Exercise. Don't overthink it. Any intentional exercise that is planned in addition to normal daily activity can be considered exercise. You don't have to go join a gym or get completely drenched in sweat to be exercising. Do enjoyable things that you can make into a habit. Walking is a simple exercise most people can do easily. The American Heart Association® recommends 150 minutes per week. That's 20 minutes, seven days a week, or 30 minutes, five days a week, however you want to split it. If you think you would benefit from having a personal trainer, seek out a trainer at your local gym. They are trained to work with all age and ability levels.
- Educate yourself. You can never know enough about your body and how to take care of it. Seek out professional and dependable websites such as Heart.org to learn more about how to follow a healthy diet and exercise routine for a healthy heart.
Do you have other tips for staying heart healthy? Let us know them in the comments section of our Facebook post!