February Heart Health – Give Yours Some Love

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February is American Heart Month! We typically celebrate this month with flowers, chocolates, special time with loved ones and our favorite romcoms. Try taking a few moments to take care of yourself this month, specifically your heart.

Your heart is a vital organ responsible for carrying the oxygen and nutrients needed throughout your body. According to the NIH, “your heart’s electrical system controls the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat. A healthy heart supplies your body with the right amount of blood at the rate needed to work well. If disease or injury weakens your heart, your body’s organs will not receive enough blood to work normally. A problem with the electrical system — or the nervous or endocrine systems, which control your heart rate and blood pressure — can also make it harder for the heart to pump blood.”

Making choices that support heart health today will reduce your risk of developing chronic disease in the future and allow you to continue doing the things you love. Consider how these three areas of your life can affect heart health:

1. Dietary Choices

Making small dietary changes can go a long way for your heart health and reducing the risk of chronic disease. Choosing whole grains, eating more fruits and vegetables, swapping your fats for unsaturated sources (like olive oil) and swapping red meat for poultry and seafood have all shown to reduce the risk of chronic disease and support heart heath. Learn about the Mediterranean Way of eating through a cooking and nutrition class, like these free Eating the Mediterranean Way Classes being offered at the public libraries (Etowah, Fletcher, Edneyville and Green River)Find a new Mediterranean Way recipe to try this week, like this Curry Quinoa Salad.

2. Physical Activity

It is recommended that adults get 20-30 minutes of aerobic activity each day – think walking, dancing, swimming, biking and gardening. It is also recommended that adults incorporate strength training exercises twice a week to increase muscle mass and support bone health. Regular exercise can help lower blood pressure, maintain a healthy body weight and reduce inflammation in the body. Try a local dance class in Hendersonville. Looking for a free strength training class? Join us at the Fletcher and Edneyville libraries this spring for community exercise classes. These class are great for beginners, people with limited mobility, those who are recovering from an injury or anyone just looking for a fun group exercise class that will increase balance and strength.

3. Stress Management

As simple as it may sound, breathing is one of the best tools you have for regulating your heart rate and nervous system. Practicing intentional breathing exercises like this one can help manage stress and anxiety at work, in the car or anywhere you are. Youtube is a great resource for finding breathing exercise and meditation videos. There are also some great free meditation apps you can download to your phone, like Insight Timer. Learn more about different relaxation tip. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule of 7-9 hours a night is also important for reducing the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Try incorporating some different sleep tips, like having a regular nighttime routine and limiting screen and electronic usage 30 minutes before bed. Your nighttime routine can also be a good opportunity to try one of those breathing exercises.

So whether you try a new recipe for dinner, go on a walk with a neighbor or take a 5 minute meditation break, remember to pay attention to your heart and give it some extra love this month. Henderson County Cooperative Extension is here to support you with classes and education along the way.

For questions about any of these resources or class interest, contact Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Abigail Pierce at abigail_pierce@ncsu.edu

28 Days Heart Health_NIH