It is the end of February, American Heart Month, but that does not mean we need to switch our focus from a healthy heart. There are a number of things to do everyday to help keep our hearts happy and beating strong. From yummy foods in our to daily stress-relieving meditation sessions, it really is easy to keep our hearts strong every day.
I had written about the different strengthing exercises I was engaging in and also different yoga and balance enhancing workouts (February Fitness & American Heart Month.) I was set back by a battle with some infections and bronchitis, but I buckled down, worked hard and reached the ultimate level I had set for my “February Fitness.” I plan to continue my routines and improve more and more each week. My routine and workouts that I schedule each day also help me to keep my heart healthy as well, which is highly important.
Stress is a huge factor in many ailments that plague us every day. Stress can cause anxiety and depression which in turn raises heart rate, causes cholesterol levels to rise and blood pressure to spike. There are also risks of weight gain which can lead to diabetes and heart disease. Also, stress can lead to heart-harmful behavior like cigarette smoking, drinking too much alcohol, neglecting exercise and physical activity, and eating too much junk food as a stress relief. Palpitations, irregular heartbeat and higher blood sugar levels can all result from too much stress. These problems can be prevented by a few simple remedies that are natural and easy to stick to. Here are some tips to get active, stay active, relieve stress and to give your heart a great workout.
1.) Exercise for Heart Health
A daily routine and weekly workout schedule is important to maintain fitness and keep stress levels down. Just think about how good it feels after a nice run in the morning or an hour of aerobics. Those endorphins do their magic and physical activity gets those guys moving. Along with feeling good, it helps to keep the body fit and the heart working less. Exercise strengthens and conditions the heart and it uses less oxygen to function and relieves a lot of the work that our heart is responsible for.
I stick to about 30 minutes of moderate cardio activity 5 times a week to keep my heart pumping efficiently and effectively. I still run 3-4 times a week and track my progress, distance, and calories using my Fitbit One Wireless. I still do my jump rope reps using my Max Speed rope. It keeps me lean, keeps me calm and anxiety free, and a good cardio exercise is my favorite way to start my day.
2.) Yoga for Heart Health
Yoga is beneficial in so many ways. Yoga strengthens and stretches the muscles, releasing oxygen in the blood and helping the heart to pump more easily. It helps in flexibility and posture by realigning the spine, neck, shoulders and hips which can relieve many aches and headaches. There is one pose that I do every morning, sometimes in the evening as well, that I notice relieves stress and mild depression, reduces anxiety, helps with fatigue and lessens my aches. It also aids in my sleep by allowing me to get more productive rest each night. It lowers blood pressure as well, which I know my heart is thankful for.
This pose is called the Bridge Pose and it’s pretty easy to do. To start, lie on your back, arms at your side, bend the knees with feet flat on the floor at hip-width apart. Inhale, pushing your feet and arms to the floor, slowly raise your hips. Clasp your hands underneath your back and lower your shoulders to the floor, push your pelvis towards the sky and hold for 5 breaths. Return to the starting position and repeat 2-3 more times. There are so many more poses that are just as effective, but this is one that is a “go-to” every day. I use my Dragon Fly Yoga Mat and Yoga Blocks from Staples and they have many more selections of yoga equipment and instruction as well.
3.) Muscle Strength for Heart Health
I love working out because of the way it makes me feel and also, the results I see are extremely motivating. Knowing that I’m helping my heart at the same time is and added bonus. Muscle strengthening improves triglycerides count, cholesterol levels, glucose metabolism and blood pressure. It also enhances the body’s defenses against free radicals that are linked to heart disease. Strengthing our muscles also helps the cardiovascular system to become stronger and able to work using less oxygen. This means the heart does not have to work as hard during daily cardio activities. It boosts the metabolism and increases muscles tissues that burn blood sugars and reduces excess fat that, like we talked about before, can lead to heart disease. And by becoming stronger, it makes normal daily activities, like lifting groceries or small children a lot easier. I love to work out my core, arms and legs by alternating the muscles I work each day.
I work my core using my GoFit.com Stability Ball, Corram Balance Board and Air Balance Disc, doing crunches and planks for minutes at a time. To give my arms and legs the workout they need I turn to my Black Mountain Resistance Bands that offer a variety of exercises for all my upper and lower muscles. I wouldn’t trade those puppies for anything, they are another “go to” item I use every day.
4.) Super Foods for Heart Health
We all know a balanced diet and portion control are crucial to develop and maintain a good weight and a healthy heart. There are also some “super foods” that can add that extra punch of goodness. Blueberries are high in antioxidants which are effective in fighting disease. I add blueberries, oranges or strawberries to my Flavour-It Fruit Infuser Water Bottle in the morning, so after a couple hours of my exercise, it’s ready for me to drink.
Full of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, salmon is a great food to aid in overall heart health. Oatmeal is full of whole grains, vitamins, minerals and fiber to lower cholesterol, reduce risk of heart disease, and helps the keep the digestive system regular. Soy protein helps to prevent cardiovascular disease and is also high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Finally, as Popeye has already proven, spinach is a “super food.” Spinach has phytochemicals, vitamins, folate and iron that help to fight disease, prevents heart disease and protects eyesight health. They are just a few edible means of increasing your heart health and by incorporating plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins, a heart healthy diet is easy to keep up.
5.) Hydration for Heart Health
Staying hydrating during and workout and during a normal day is highly important for heart health. Plenty of water in the body helps the heart to pump blood through blood vessels to muscles more easily. So, when we work out our muscles are oxygenated and work more efficiently. Water is the best way to get the top hydration that a body needs and I love my Flavour-It Fruit Infuser Water Bottle because it keeps water from being boring. I can mix all kinds of fruits, mints or vegetables in the infuser and after cooling it I have great flavored water that is full of vitamins and hydrates me before, in between, and after my workouts and daily activities.
Blood in the body is 80% water, so it makes sense that if we are not properly hydrated, our blood thickens and forces the heart to work harder to pump it throughout the body. This hard work on the heart raises the risk for heart disease in the long term. So, if plain water is boring you I recommend grabbing a Flavour-It Fruit Infuser to add a twist to your H2O and be sure that the heart pump smoothly and easily.
It is true, February is over but celebrating Heart Health should never be. Putting physical activity, a good diet and a stress-free routine in our everyday life is an easy and effective way to keep our hearts healthy and happy. Be sure to check out Staples for the items I mentioned because I recommend them. I use them in my own daily routines and see a big difference in the way that I feel physical, mentally and emotionally. I hope these tips can help you as much as they have helped me over the past month and continue to be beneficial every single day after. Get up, get going and take control!!
This post is sponsored by Staples.com and written by me. All opinions and statements are 100% my own.