The month of February is here, and I think we are all feeling a little more love in the air! What better way to get into the spirit of love than to make sure that we are taking care of our hearts.
The heart is a muscular organ of the body’s circulatory system and is only about the size of a fist! Despite its size, the heart plays a significant role because of its ability to pump blood throughout your body. This ensures that you are getting the oxygen and nutrients you need to stay healthy. With a role this special, it is important that we are taking extra good care of our hearts!
Here are 6 Ways to Take Care of Your Heart:
1. Stay active.
A great way to keep your heart strong is to make your heart beat fast for at least 60 minutes a day! There are so many fun outdoor and indoor activities that you can do as a family to keep your bodies moving and your heart pumping. Going for a walk, riding bikes, or playing tag outdoors are exciting ways to get fresh air, spend some quality time with your little ones, and allows the whole family to keep their hearts healthy.
Even on days when the weather isn’t cooperating, you can still stay active with indoor exercise activities. Having a dance party, doing a scavenger hunt, or jumping rope are great ways to let your kids move around the house and use their energy. In our Muscles That Always Move Snack Science video, you can learn more about the heart muscle and a fun Dance Attack Game that works to get your hearts pumping!
2. Drink lots of water.
Did you know that when we breathe or use the restroom, our bodies are actually losing water? Water makes up approximately 70% of our body weight. Every organ in the body needs water to do its job properly. Although you can’t see it, your heart is constantly working to pump about 2000 gallons of blood a day. That can be super tiring! So to make it easier for your heart to plump all of that blood, it’s important to stay hydrated. When you become dehydrated, your blood thickens, making it hard for your blood to flow smoothly throughout your body. Because of this, your heart will have to work harder to overcome this resistance to blood flow. Drinking lots of water keeps your body hydrated, which means you are consuming more water than you are losing.
Getting into the habit of drinking water when you wake up, exercise, eat a meal and before you sleep is super important. Sometimes it can be challenging to get your little ones to drink more water, but never fear HealthStart is here with 5 Ways to Help Your Child Drink More Water! Remember that when you stay hydrated, your heart can do its job effectively!
3. Eat heart-healthy foods.
What we eat plays a significant role in our heart health! Many foods out there can affect blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and risk of inflammation, which can substantially increase our risk for heart disease. When we eat foods that look a lot like they did in nature, meaning no one has done much to them, they have FIBER. Fruits, vegetables, and nuts are great heart-healthy foods with vitamins, minerals, and slow-burning fiber, providing your body with long-lasting energy. Fiber-rich foods are especially important for the heart because fiber helps regulate your blood sugar, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and are a good source of antioxidants.
Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as cold-water fish like salmon, flaxseeds and walnuts are also beneficial for the heart, as omega-3 fatty acids can lower blood fats called triglycerides. Omega-3 fatty acids also reduce blood pressure by keeping your arteries free of plaque and reduces inflammation. Check out this delicious Herby Avocado Hummus recipe for one snack idea that includes ingredients rich in fiber, antioxidants and omega-3 to keep your heart strong!
4. Get adequate sleep.
Sometimes it can be super tempting to stay up a little later to do something we like, such as watching a show or playing. However, not getting enough sleep at night not only makes you super tired throughout the next day but it doesn’t allow your body and organs to properly rest and recover. When we get enough sleep, our organs and muscles become well rested too! Sleep allows us to grow, think better, feel happier, and makes our immune system stronger so that it can fight off the germs that make us sick.
The National Sleep Foundation guidelines for hours of sleep vary for different age groups. It is essential for our heart health that we meet those recommended hours as much as possible. Having a consistent sleep schedule every night, avoiding eating close to bedtime, avoiding the use of electronic devices for at least 30 minutes before bed, and creating a relaxing environment makes it easier to fall asleep!
5. Limit screen time.
The use of technology has become prominent in many of our lives. It is a source of entertainment and connection for ourselves and our kids. As much as technology is great in keeping us up to date and connecting us with other people, it is important to limit electronic use to a moderate amount. Excessive screen time can lessen the amount of physical activity we do and can affect sleep schedules - both of which play a role in heart health, as mentioned above! There are ways to create healthy technology habits in your home through repurposing or limiting screen time. HealthStart has 8 tips in helping you create these healthy habits here: How to Limit (or Repurpose) Your Child’s Screen Time.
6. Reduce stress with a positive mindset.
Research has shown that having a positive outlook by being optimistic, cheerful, and grateful can be heart-protective. When we feel negative emotions, our bodies release stress hormones that can result in higher heart rates and higher blood pressure. Stress is an everyday experience, but with a positive outlook on life, we can build better coping strategies to better manage our stressors.
One way to increase positivity in your life is by keeping a gratitude journal where you can write about the things that made you happy or the things you are thankful for each day. You can also make it a way to bond with the whole family by telling each other about the good things you all wrote down! Learn more about stress and ways to mediate stress by watching our Health Science Videos What is Stress? and Mediate the Stress Away.
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10 ways to keep your child's heart healthy. (n.d.). Children’s Health – Making Life Better for Children in Texas. https://www.childrens.com/health-wellness/10-ways-to-keep-your-childs-heart-healthy
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