February being the Love Month, most of us excitedly anticipate our Valentine’s activities, eager to spend time with our significant other, surprising or being surprised. But it should also be a good time for us to revisit our daily habits that contribute to our good (or not-so-good) health. For how else can we share quality time with our loved ones if we are not healthy? And having the healthiest of heart, the one that beats for our loved ones, the one that is actually a specialized muscle that pumps blood around our body, is the best gift we can give ourselves and the ones we truly care for.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Here then are 7 habits for a healthy heart.
HAVE A COLORFUL PLATE of FOOD.
Eating right means consciously having a fair amount of greens (salads, avocados, beans), oranges (carrots and squash), healthy red (berries, beets, tomatoes and peppers), browns (nuts, and yes, chocolates!), yellows (mangoes, pineapples, bananas), even blue and purple (eggplants, figs, grapes, blueberries). Read a longer list here and the nutrition it gives you, and your heart!
COFFEE & WINE, ANYONE?
Cheers! Better than soda and other artificial drinks, caffeine has been found to be healthy, in moderation of course, just like wine. Studies show that the daily coffee fix is not just a pick-me-upper, but also contains antioxidants that fight inflammation, helps slow down cognitive decline, and yes, contributes to a healthy heart, as shown in a Dutch landmark study that proved that drinking 2-4 cups daily lowered risk of heart disease by 20%. Of course, who would not welcome the findings that a glass of red wine a day contributes to a healthy heart too. The ingredient in red wine, resveratrol, helps reduce blood clotting and inflammation. But if you are not a coffee or wine drinker, the good old water with a slice of lemon will do you good too.
Walk. Jump. Run. Dance. Walk the dog, walk with your partner, jump rope, run a mini marathon, dance alone, or with someone. Just move. The American Heart Association says 30 minutes of walking (or moving!) provides heart health benefits. Read more tips here to get active.
SLEEP LONG & SLEEP WELL.
We cannot stress enough the importance of a good and restful sleep. We are talking about at least 7 full hours of uninterrupted, gadget-free, baby-like sleep. Lights out, comfortable temperature, and no negative thoughts. Research done by the European Heart Journal found that sleeping less than six hours a night means 48% chance of developing heart disease. Long hours of work will not be worth it as the sleep deprivation will eventually catch up on you. How about taking that full, goodnight sleep starting tonight?
It warms the heart. Really. So give back. Spend time with the elderly, with sick children, with the homeless, with calamity victims. Or with friends who might need your expertise in something — drawing, carpentry, event planning. Pay it forward to the university who taught you well. Canadian researchers found that volunteering improves cardiovascular health, aside from increase in empathy and mental health.
They say happiness is a choice, and that is true. Choosing to be happy means surrounding yourself with positive energy — people, environment, attitude. Smiling is one. Psychological Science published a report that the act of smiling has a positive effect on our happiness and physical health, helping the heart recover more quickly after stressful events. Smile when you answer the phone; they will feel it on the other end of the line. Spend time with your loved ones – watch films that make you laugh, go on adventure trips and gather memories, have coffee or wine with them, and volunteer with them.
Spend time alone, to recharge and reflect, to be thankful for your life, to plan for what is ahead. Read books and give yourself that gift of more knowledge, exploring the world through the wonders of great authors. Learn new things that will make you a better person – professionally and personally, which you can also perhaps share to others. Write by hand. On your journal, or a letter to someone. Handwriting is a wonderful brain exercise, aside from being a good excuse to practice your writing skills (calligraphy, anyone?) That paired act of hand movement and thinking helps stimulate your mind. Why not learn to say, and write I love you in different languages?
There may be more good habits to follow for a healthy heart (share it here!) but these seven should be a good start, as you venture on the path of life, and love. And for those who still do not realize it, a healthy heart also means a healthy brain. What is good for your heart is also good for your brain, as this article discusses. So keep in mind that your lifestyle affects not only the health of your heart, but also contributes to your mind wellness.
A healthy heart means a healthier mind and a happier life. Vi amo tutti !