In Part 1 of this series we reviewed the basics of leading a heart healthy life. Many of the basics are simply common sense – preached to us by doctors, dieticians, TV hosts and our mothers for most of our lives. One would need to be a hermit living on a mountain in a home without electricity to have not heard much of the advice before, yet American are still among the most unhealthy in the world, we have one of the highest levels of obesity on the planet and heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women in America. Clearly, though we’ve all heard the message, something is just not clicking!
In Part 2 of this series, we delve deeper into each of the basics and discover ways to easily incorporate the changes into our lives. Small changes, even minute changes, can make a huge difference!
Physical activity – It doesn’t mean you have to head to the treadmill every day, although there’s nothing wrong with that. It can be lots of other things! Go dancing. If you don’t have anyone to dance with, close the drapes, put on your comfy dance shoes, tell Alexa to play your favorite tune, and do your best Ginger Rogers/Tina Turner/Gene Kelly imitations with no one watching! But if you’re in more of a Zen place, Tai Chi is a soothing, calm and disciplined form of exercise that will work every muscle without having to keep up at breakneck speeds. Yoga also comes in many forms, and there are also specialized classes designed with seniors in mind including chair yoga. Mall-walking adds some visual interest to a morning walk, and if done before the mall opens, is peaceful and avoids playing dodge-the-shopper. The point is, keep moving! Whether it’s a brisk walk, dog-paddling around a pool, hiking at your favorite park or Zumba at its finest, find something that’s fun, that you will look forward to, and that will give you some cardio activity.
Eat a healthy diet. Ugh. Every time I heard this over the years, all I could think of was oats, kale smoothies and smelly fish – none of my favorites. Thanks to television and the internet, I grew to learn that ‘healthy’ didn’t mean sacrificing the love of good food or flavor. Graham Kerr was probably the first chef I watched on television to take meals to the healthier, lean side while not sacrificing flavor. Today, the world is your oyster! If you enjoy casual meals out, there are endless lists of health-oriented food franchises and individual restaurants that offer everything from salads to poke bowls to sushi to sandwiches, soups and hot meals that will list calorie counts while some also offer food scores including protein and fiber counts. Research and register with some of the popular healthy recipe websites which will send occasional emails with meal ideas. Most of the supermarket franchises offer the meals-in-a-bag with everything you need to create dinner and are usually well-balanced and flavorful. And if all else fails, you can sign with any number of meal delivery companies that will work with you on likes and dislikes, dietary goals and are delivered either cooked, pre-cooked or all-in-one preparation kits to make your own. The point is, you don’t have to cringe when you hear ‘healthy diet’. It can be fun experimenting, creating and eating a nutrient-rich diet that meets your approval in taste.
Don’t smoke. This one is self-explanatory. But don’t forget secondhand smoke. Heart disease, respiratory problems, and cancers have all been linked to the intake of someone else’s smoke as well. The jury is still out on the new vaping craze, but all indicators are beginning to point to the downside of that one, too. For fun, try one of those flavoured oxygen boutiques that are popping up in malls. Or pass by an Italian restaurant and breathe in the garlic and herb aromas. Watch a movie with your favorite dreamboat of a star and sigh. Breathe in life instead!
Manage stress. This one can be hard sometimes, but its ill effect on the heart is conclusive. Taking a walk in the fresh air can breathe new life into a bad day. A cup of hot tea is always soothing. Call your best friend and rant. That’s what they’re there for, and they are sure to reciprocate one day. Get social. Join a club or sport that you enjoy. Sign up for a MeetUp of choice or start your own. Take a class in something that helps you to focus on something new and fun. Get involved in a local church’s activities. Sing! That’s right…close the windows so the neighbors can’t hear, put on your favorite tunes and sing along. Anyone can be a James Brown, Whitney Houston, or Frank Sinatra at home! Get help if need be from a professional. Get to a gym. Go float in a pool. There are a zillion methods to choose from but get away from the factors causing the stress and don’t sit at home contemplating them. A change of scenery or activity may help you to think more clearly and come up with solutions to eliminate the causes of your stress.
Get enough sleep. Does anybody? Indeed, it’s our aim, but everything from physical to mental factors can sometimes prevent us from easing into Slumberland. However, there are some environmental elements that we can control. Some people sleep better in complete black-out conditions, while others need a small amount of light. Some like complete silence while others enjoy sound machines that create everything from ‘white noise’ to rain sounds. Then there are the book readers, the tv watchers, and the music listeners. For those TV watchers, beware. Sleep.org recommends www.sleep.org/articles/donts-before-bed/ : “Don’t Use Tech: While watching TV, surfing the Internet, and texting can feel like second nature—especially right before bed—these tasks can actually hurt your chances of getting a good night sleep. The light emitted by these devices stimulates the brain, making it even harder for you to snooze all night. While you can turn on the blue light filter on most devices, try instead, to unwind by reading a book (preferably not a horror or suspense novel, as these can add to your troubles), listening to calming music, or meditating.”
Leading a heart-healthy life as we age can be fun if we want
it to be. A positive attitude goes a long way in getting – and staying – on the
right track. To quote the Swami Sivananda, “Put your heart, mind, and soul into even
your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.”