A Precious Gift: Your Heart
One of the best gifts you can give yourself is a healthy heart. February is American Heart Month and we want to give you some great ideas to maintain a strong, healthy heart. Cooper Clinic Cardiologist Nina Radford, MD, recommends the following tips to get your heart pumping:
Treat yourself to some movement.
What if I told you that there was a medicine that could:
- Reduce the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke.
- Reduce the risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers.
- Help control weight, build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints.
- Reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and promotes psychological well being.
- Reduce disability and prolongs independent living as we age.
This medicine is none other than exercise! Engaging in a regular exercise program is not only good for your body; it is great for your mind.
The current recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association is that all healthy adults aged 18 to 65 years old need moderate-intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 30 minutes on five days each week, or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 20 minutes on three days each week. In addition, every adult should perform activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance a minimum of two days each week.
Research demonstrates that you are more likely to stick with an exercise program if you chose activities that you enjoy and that your feel confident you can perform. If you hate the treadmill, stay off it. If you love to jitterbug, get out those saddle shoes. If you are intimidated by weight machines, hire a trainer to show you the ropes.
Chocolate is a health food.
Have you heard that old expression “if it sounds too good to be true, it is?” That is what I thought when I read the headline: “Study Confirms Cardiovascular Benefits of Chocolate.”
Chocolate contains polyphenols called flavanoids which are antioxidant phytochemicals that help the body resist damage from free radicals. In experimental settings, intake of flavanoid rich chocolate in humans has been shown to lower levels of proinflammatory chemicals and reduce oxidation damage. Flavanoids may raise levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and cause blood vessels to dilate. It is thought that these antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may play a role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease by decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation.
While a number of studies have described benefits of high flavanoid containing chocolate in the cardiovascular system (like lowering blood pressure), it is important to appreciate the calorie, sugar and content of chocolate. Moderation is the key.