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HEAL

Seven heart-healthy steps in 24 hours

If you or someone you love have been told that your cholesterol, blood pressure, body fat percentage or weight put you at risk for heart disease, you probably were advised to eat healthier and exercise more.

Sounds simple, right? Then why do so many of us struggle with those two things?

I think the answer lies in looking at this question through a holistic health lens. The holistic approach considers not just diet and exercise, but also stress levels, sleep quantity and quality, life-balance, social connections and more. For example, it's hard to be healthy when you are sleep deprived, exhausted from caring for family, or completely stressed out at work.

It may sound intimidating to take on stress management and sleeping more in addition to eating healthy and exercising. But doing so is essential to living a heart-healthy life.

And there are actually many little things you can do in a 24-hour cycle to support your heart health:

  1. Get a good night sleep. This is critical to making the most of the next day. Most people require six to eight hours of shut eye. And if you are in the eight-hour camp, getting six hours won't cut it. You need eight hours to feel refreshed in the morning.
  2. When you first wake up, don't reach for your smart phone or tablet. Take five minutes to adapt to the day ― try some yoga stretches, light breathing or a very light meditation. Consider what you want to accomplish most that day.
  3. Eat a nourishing breakfast. Feeding our body feeds our minds, and the neurotransmitters and hormones we send to our hearts. A good first meal is steel cut oatmeal with fresh fruit, and almonds or walnuts. Other good foods are eggs or Greek yogurt (without added sugar) topped with natural fruit and nuts. The idea is to get complex carbohydrates, a good fat and a lean protein all in one meal.
  4. Listen to something that soothes you on the way to work, rather than something that might make you stressed.
  5. Take 30 minutes over your lunch hour to get out and move. One of the best things you can do to support your heart health is move for a half hour each day. It doesn't need to be extreme. A light walk is great and allows you to go right back to work without a shower.
  6. Pick a lunch that has complex carbohydrates, good fats and a lean protein. An example is quinoa, chicken or black beans, and veggies with some sesame oil.
  7. When you head home, try to "shelve" anything that was stressful in your day. Take 10 minutes when you get home to sit and breathe. This gets you ready to move into the next phase of your day ― be it making dinner, caring for kids, heading out with friends, attending to chores, or just enjoying your evening.

These are quick and easy ways to manage your stress and nourish your mind and body, but they can reap big rewards in helping support a healthy heart.

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