10 Easy Tricks for Heart Health that Even Busy Moms Can Do
Heart disease is the number one killer of women, contributing to nearly a third of all deaths every year. We know that we need to be concerned about our cardiovascular health, but as busy moms, we have a tendency to let our own health concerns take a backseat to everything else that needs to be done. Even the basics of maintaining a healthy heart — diet and exercise — often fall by the wayside in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Keeping your heart healthy doesn’t have to be complicated, though. In fact, there’s a good chance that you’re already doing many of the things that you need to do keep your ticker in tip-top shape. By adding a few healthier habits to your daily routine, you can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
1. Sleep More
Most of us don’t get nearly enough sleep. Between the kids and the desire for some “me time” after they go to bed, most of us stay up far too late and get up much too early. However, not getting enough shuteye can cause stress, as well as chemical imbalances in the blood that hurt your heart. Aim for eight hours of sleep per night; try going to bed an hour or two earlier than usual to avoid a harmful sleep deficit.
You might floss just to prevent a lecture from the dentist, but flossing can also benefit your heart. Studies show that the bacteria in your mouth can contribute to blood clots and even cause a heart attack, so don’t skip the floss!
3. Drink More Caffeine
Caffeine is often blamed for a host of ills, but research shows that women who drink three to five cups of coffee per day actually have a significantly reduced risk of heart disease. Don’t like coffee? Certain herbal teas have been proven to support heart health, and many contain caffeine.
4. Get a Hobby
Engaging in an activity you enjoy can reduce stress and increase the feel-good hormones that help your heart. Make time for the things you like to do.
5. Eat More Chocolate
Not that you need an excuse, but eating a small serving of dark chocolate each day can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, two of the factors in heart disease. Limit your indulgence to about 150 calories, and choose chocolate that’s as unprocessed as possible.
6. Exercise in the Afternoon
Working out at any time of the day is helpful, but studies show that people who work out in the later part of the day tend to be more vigorous and energetic in their workouts, thereby increasing the benefits of the exercise. Your muscles are already warmed and limber in the afternoon, allowing you to push yourself further. Try taking an afternoon walk, or bring the whole family outside for a walk or game of tag to make working out fun and effective.
7. Have a Laugh
Think about the last time you really had a great laugh. You probably felt happier — and almost like you worked out. Laughter releases oxytocin, a feel-good chemical, as well as endorphins, the same hormones that are released when you exercise. So try to find the humor in every day: Talk with a friend, watch a funny movie or show, or check out your favorite blogs. It’s good for you!
8. Use Olive Oil
There’s a reason heart disease is less prevalent in Mediterranean countries. Most cooks there use olive oil — and olive oil is proven to help improve heart health. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil help reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, and might even help reduce blood clotting and help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. Olive oil is still high in calories, though, so use it in moderation.
9. Get More Sunshine
The sun isn’t the enemy. In fact, it’s good for your heart! Exposure to sunlight helps increase production of vitamin D, an essential vitamin for cardiovascular health. While many foods are fortified with vitamin D, a few minutes of exposure to sunlight can provide more than the recommended daily allowance. Just slather on the sunscreen if you’ll be outdoors much longer.
10. Eat Nuts
As long as you aren’t allergic, nuts are a perfect snack to tide you over until dinner when the 3 p.m. cravings hit. Packed with plant sterols and Omega-3 fatty acids, a one ounce serving of unprocessed raw nuts will give you protein to keep you satiated until dinner and help your heart.
Staying healthy doesn’t have to be difficult. With just a few small changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can keep your heart in good shape, even if you haven’t seen the inside of a gym since the kids were born.