Heart Health for Life

Written by Cortney Welch BS, CSCS

Heart Health… Did you know that the heart does more physical work than any other muscle in the body? Since February is National Heart Month, I wanted this blog to touch on important facts to remember how to keep your heart in tip-top shape. So you may be thinking, okay, if my heart is a muscle, how do I train my heart? The great news is that there is more than one way to keep the heart functioning better and longer. There are also many resources online that you can add to your knowledge toolbox. For your convenience, I have compiled several of these resources here in this blog. The next step is to start small and pick just one thing. By just implementing one better habit into your lifestyle, you could add years to your life and improve your heart’s overall function.

According to the American Heart Association, listed below are the specific guidelines to improve your heart health and avoid heart-related diseases and disorders; (2)

  • Doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week 
  • Eating healthy (the AHA’s Heart Check mark can guide you in the grocery store)
  • Not smoking or vaping
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Controlling blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure
  • Getting regular checkups
  • Learning Hands-Only CPR
  • Following COVID-19 safety protocols
  • Finding ways to relax and ease your mind

This may seem a bit overwhelming. But as I said, choose one thing you feel you could improve upon, and your heart will thank you. Let’s break down each bullet point, starting with the first one: if you are not physically active, what is one way to incorporate physical activity into your lifestyle? Maybe you find 10 minutes to go on a brisk walk throughout the day. This small step alone will impact the health of your heart over time! If you are not motivated to engage in physical activity, find a sport/hobby you enjoy, find a friend to accompany you and hold you accountable, find a reliable gym that meets you where you are, or do less sitting and more standing or moving. More health benefits can be found on the charts linked to this blog. (3) The ultimate goal everyone should be working towards eventually is the specific criteria based upon the ACSM and CDC’s official guidelines: 

“All healthy adults aged 18–65 should participate in moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes on five days per week, or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes on three days per week.”

“Every adult should perform  activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance for a minimum of two days per week.” (4)

Eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight can become another blog, so I will spare you too much information. We partner with local dietitians we trust and can refer you for more detailed meal planning and nutrition monitoring. Our owner and founder, Marie Merritt, also offers health coaching to those wanting to focus more on healthy habit-building and nutrition guidance. Our links below allow you to view our free wellness booklet with health tips and advice on various topics. The main takeaway is to find balance in your nutrition and to be aware that everyone’s healthy weight is different based on body type, age, gender, etc. This leads me to the importance of regular checkups! Many people over a certain age or who no longer play a sport believe that they no longer need a physical examination of their body. This is far from true! Your primary care physician can run tests to determine whether you have normal blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, etc. A regular checkup ensures that everything in your body is functioning to its best ability, and if not, then it brings to your attention what needs to change to get healthier.

I would like for you to take a moment to view the chart pictured below. It is fairly self-explanatory and shocking as to how many deaths occur from noncommunicable diseases.

(5)

Non-communicable diseases are not spread through infection or other people but are typically caused by unhealthy behaviors. Read that definition again and then look at the chart again in the blue. I was first shown this chart at my conference in Orlando last month, and my mind was blown. Notice that the leading cause of death is heart disease, hence the importance and severity of this topic. Now, sometimes heart disease or disorders can be hereditary. I was recently introduced to a great organization that does preventative heart screenings. The organization is called Who We Play For; below is their mission,

“We exist to eliminate preventable sudden cardiac death in the young through affordable heart screenings, AEDs, and working with communities to honor every kid who never had the chance.” (6)

Our trainer, Melissa, is a member of this organization and does periodic screenings at a low cost to those interested in their heart screening results. Preventative measures like these exist to attempt to troubleshoot future heart problems from taking place. Another preventative measure that is super easy to learn and become certified in is cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR. If you are interested in more information, in the references is a link for nearby classes to get certified in this life-saving technique. (7) I am super passionate about helping others, and learning CPR can be the difference between life and death for an individual. At some point this year, I will also be taking a CPR instructor course and plan on hosting a few CPR classes right here at Momentum, so stay tuned. 

Our last bullet point in our original list describes something many overlook in their health. Finding ways to relax will limit the amount of stress you have, which will limit how high your heart rate is, which can lower your risk for heart disease, and so forth. The PDF in the references (8) describes just how much of an effect stress can have on your entire body. This PDF talks about four ways to help decrease stress levels: meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and deep breathing. There is so much hustle and bustle in everyone’s daily life; being mindful and slowing down occasionally can make a huge difference in your heart health. If you cannot cope or are too overwhelmed to handle your stress, there are professional help options for you to use. Never be afraid to ask for help when it comes to bettering yourself. 

Your heart is a remarkable engine, keeping you going every moment of the day. By incorporating even small changes into your lifestyle, you can empower your heart to function optimally for years to come. Take charge of your health today, and remember, every step in the right direction is a step towards a healthier, happier you.

Thank you for reading!

In Health,
Cortney Welch – Momentum Fit Trainer, BS, CSCS

References:

  1. https://newsroom.heart.org/file?fid=59a7145e2cfac2546cae1995
  1. https://www.heart.org/en/around-the-aha/reclaim-your-health-during-american-heart-month-in-february
  1. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/health-benefits-of-physical-activity.html#children
  1. https://www.acsm.org/education-resources/trending-topics-resources/physical-activity-guidelines
  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/the-top-10-causes-of-death
  1. https://www.whoweplayfor.org/
  1. https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class?scode=PSG00000E017&cid=generator&med=cpc&source=google&gad_source=1&gclid=CjwKCAiA8sauBhB3EiwAruTRJt2prGcpnGgasp-QbSUQsqHWwowE-JIDLxp2AtbSjAsPreHDy0GXpxoCqqAQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
  1. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/resources/stress-less-healthier-heart-fact-sheet

Other Resources:

https://songbpm.com/

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart/physical-activity/benefits

https://www.mariemerrittcoaching.com/

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