Devoting a little time every day to care for yourself can go a long way toward protecting the health of your heart. Simple self-care, such as taking a moment to de-stress, giving yourself time to move more, preparing healthier meals and not cheating on sleep, can all benefit your heart.
Because heart disease is largely preventable, focusing on improving your heart health is important. Heart disease is a leading cause of death for women and men in the United States, and many Americans remain at risk, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). People with poor cardiovascular health are also at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
“Studies show self-care routines, such as taking a daily walk and keeping doctor’s appointments, help us keep our blood pressure in the healthy range and reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke,” said David Goff, M.D., NHLBI’s director of cardiovascular sciences.
It may be easier than you think to “put your heart” into your daily routine. Each Sunday, look at your week’s schedule and carve out 30 minutes for heart-healthy practices. Take an online yoga class, prepare a heart healthy recipe, schedule your bedtime to get at least seven hours of sleep or make a medication checklist. Then seek out support from others to help you stick to your goals.
Consider these self-care tips to try each day to make your heart a priority:
Find a moment of serenity every Sunday. Spend some quality time on yourself.
Be mindful about your health and regularly monitor your blood pressure or blood sugar if needed. Keep an eye on your weight to make sure it stays within or moves toward a healthy range.
Choose how you want to approach eating healthier. Start small by pepping your meals with a fresh herb or spice as a salt substitute. Get adventurous and prepare a simple, new, heart-healthy recipe. Or go big by trying a different way of eating, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan, which is scientifically proven to lower blood pressure. DASH is flexible and balanced, and it includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry, lean meats, beans, nuts, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
Don’t waffle on your wellness. Move more, eat a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried, make a plan to quit smoking or vaping or learn the signs of a heart attack or stroke. You could be having a heart attack if you have chest and upper body pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea or lightheadedness. You might be having a stroke if you experience numbness in the face, arm or leg; confusion; trouble talking or seeing; dizziness; or a severe headache.
Treat Yourself Thursday
Treats can be healthy. Try making a dessert with fresh fruit and yogurt. Then stretch your imagination beyond food. Host a family dance party, take a few minutes to sit and meditate, go for a long walk or watch a funny show. Whatever you do, find a way to spend some quality time on yourself.
Follow inspiring people and pages on social media, or text a friend to help you stick to your self-care goals. Remember to take care of your mental health, too. Two of the main hurdles to self-care are depression and a lack of confidence, according to a study published in the “Journal of the American Heart Association.” If your mental health is taking a toll, take action to show your heart some love. Reach out to family and friends for support, or talk to a qualified mental health provider.
Inspire others to take care of their hearts. Talk about your self-care routine with loved ones or share a selfie on social media. Having social support and personal networks can make it easier to get regular physical activity, eat nutritious foods, reach a healthy weight and quit smoking.
Learn more about heart health and heart-healthy activities in your community, and see what others are doing for their heart health, at nhlbi.nih.gov/ourhearts or follow #OurHearts on social media.