Heart Healthy Habits

February is American Heart Month, which focuses on the prevention of cardiovascular (or heart) disease. Cardiovascular is a term which relates to the heart, as well as the arteries and veins that supply our organs with blood. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women, accounting for 1 in 4 deaths in the United States.  Many Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease such as high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, or an unhealthy diet. Your risk also increases with age; however, regardless of age, it is NEVER too early to start practicing heart-healthy habits. Here are a few steps you can begin implementing at any age:

  • Check your family history. Ask family members if they have had heart disease or any risk factors for it. If the answer is yes, you have an increased chance for developing the disease will go up so it’s definitely important to learn the information sooner rather than later.
  • Smoking will double your risk for heart disease and stroke. Avoid all smoke, including second hand. Plus smoking combined with certain oral contraceptives can cause an increase in your blood pressure, so women should be sure to choose their birth control carefully.
  • Know your numbers, such as your cholesterol and blood pressure, which will impact your heart health. Visit your doctor regularly to monitor both of these. As we age, it becomes increasingly more critical to monitor changes in our body so make sure to get those regular checkups and screenings.
  • Excess weight increases the heart’s work. It also raises blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and triglyceride levels while lowering HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It can also make diabetes more likely to develop. By losing as little as 10 pounds, you can lower your risk for heart disease.
  • Follow a healthy, balanced diet & exercise regularly. As we age, our dietary needs, as well as physical limits, may change. However, regardless of your age, making smart food choices and keeping yourself active will insure a longer lifespan. A good rule of thumb is to follow these guidelines:
    • Eat more fruits & vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry/fish, and nuts.
    • Avoid red meat, as well as sugary and processed foods, and foods high in sodium.
    • For overall cardiovascular health, the AHA suggests 30 minutes of aerobic activity, 5 days per week along with muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week.
  • Regular physical activity can relieve tension, anxiety, depression & anger. Exercise increases the flow of oxygen, which directly affects the brain. Long term stress will cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to damage of the artery walls. Find ways to reduce and/or manage your stress at home and at work. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques. A stressful situation will almost always cause your quality of sleep to decline, which can also impact your heart health.
  • Part of living a heart-healthy lifestyle is also dependent on getting enough sleep. People who don’t sleep enough are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease—regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits.Studies show that adults who sleep fewer than six hours per night are about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night. Good-quality sleep decreases the work of your heart, as blood pressure and heart rate go down at night. Lack of sleep can also increase insulin resistance, a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Making small adjustments to your daily routine will dramatically improve your overall quality of life. Remember – it’s never too early!! Take action today so you can look forward to a healthier tomorrow!

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Transforming From the Inside Out

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Happy Friday everyone!  Last night was the season finale of The Biggest Loser and it left me extra inspired.

The contestants always come so far…not just in the weight loss but in life. The changes that occur in such a short amount of time is nothing short of amazing.

I got to thinking about how much the show really has taught me. This whole journey isn’t just about weight loss…it’s about getting your life back and taking control of your own happiness. I’m realizing more and more each day that I’m not the same girl that I used to be.

Earlier this week we were hit with a big snowstorm…which derailed my precious gym time. The old me would have used that as an excuse to stay home and veg out in front of the tv. Not anymore. I definitely used the shoveling to my advantage and I also made sure to use my time indoors for some killer at-home workouts. No more excuses.

I was truly miserable for so long that I didn’t know what it meant to be happy. I went from being a depressed teenager to an unhappy young adult who partied her way through sadness. That insecurity also landed me in an abusive relationship, which lasted most of my twenties. It also lead me to some very toxic friendships. I was so unhappy and insecure that I clung to the wrong people for way too long…and for all the wrong reasons.

A little over two years ago, I found the Biggest Loser and decided enough was enough. I started working out and eating right. As I lost the physical weight, I also started dropping the dead weight…in the form of the negative people in my life. As time went on I grew stronger…not just physically but mentally.

Unfortunately, not everyone is happy to see you succeed. While I do have some incredible people in my life, I’ve also lost some “friends” along the way. They say that misery loves company; now that I’m truly happy in most aspects of my life, some people have disappeared. It’s sad how life can be sometimes, but its taught me who my real friends are. I’ve always said that I’d rather have a handful of genuine people than surround myself with a huge group of phonies. I’m too old for the nonsense – nowadays it’s most definitely quality over quantity. You either have my back no matter what or don’t even bother.

I am forever grateful to the Biggest Loser for teaching me that you need to transform yourself from the inside out. You can’t truly succeed with a physical transformation until you conquer your inner demons. Everyday I learn something new about myself…and in doing so, I’m becoming a better person. I feel lucky to have the support of true friends, a loving family, and the best boyfriend a girl could ever ask for. I’ve lost a lot of weight but most importantly, I’ve gained my life back.

No matter how much you may struggle, it IS possible. Don’t let any type of negativity weigh you down. Love yourself enough to respect yourself. That may seem easier said than done but I’m living proof that against all odds, you can overcome obstacles and achieve any goal you set. It won’t be easy but always remember: nothing worth having comes easy.

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina
TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com