BLOG: Healthy Habits to Keep Your Heart Strong

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As busy professionals, keeping up our health can be tricky. Long hours, stress, and lack of physical activity can take a toll on our bodies, especially our hearts. As the number one killer of men and women in the United States, heart disease accounts for one death every 60 seconds. Despite the staggering statistics, there are plenty of strategies you can add to your everyday work routine to counter common risk factors like poor diet, stress, and lack of exercise.

Poor Diet

Busy days at the office can cause us to err on the side of convenience over nutrition. Making sure your workday diet is full of foods high in heart healthy fats and low in sodium will ensure your bad cholesterol and blood pressure levels stay low. These recipes are easy to prepare, delicious, and nutritious:

Stress

Long days at the office and the stresses of everyday life can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke and other dangerous health problems. Prioritizing your mental health and finding time to relax and unwind will help reduce those risks and keep your heart strong. Try these techniques to keep your stress levels low amid tight deadlines, angry bosses, and meetings:

  • Take a deep breath: Taking a few minutes to focus on your breathing can reduce anxiety and help lower your blood pressure. Sit up straight, close your eyes, and inhale slowly through your nose and exhale through your mouth. With a few repetitions, you’ll be calmer and ready to focus on the tasks at hand.
  • Don’t take things too seriously: Finding the humor in tense situations and having a good laugh lowers the stress hormone cortisol and increases mood-boosting endorphins. Believe it or not, laughter even has the ability to improve blood flow and lower blood pressure.
  • Reach out for help: A strong support system is crucial to alleviating stress. Talking through problems with someone can help lighten your burden and feel less overwhelmed. This, in turn, will keep you calm and focused on the day.
  • Create a positive work playlist: Music provides a welcome mental distraction in stressful situations. The right playlist can ease muscle tension and reduce stress while you work.

Lack of Exercise

During a chaotic work day, hours can go by without the opportunity to walk around. Lack of daily physical activity can compound to a sedentary lifestyle, which weakens the heart. Fortunately, there are small changes you can make to keep moving. Swapping the elevator for the stairs or taking a stroll during lunch can do the trick. There are also a variety of simple and discreet exercises you can do at your desk to break up hours of inactivity. Examples include:

  • Tricep desk dips
  • Seated leg lifts
  • Sitting spinal stretch
  • Desk/wall push-ups

As American Heart Month wraps up, keep these tips in mind to maintain your heart health year-round.

Grace Derocha is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Find more of her health and wellness tips at ahealthiermichigan.org

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