Show Your Heart Some Love This Month and Beyond

We're talking heart health, not Cupid's arrows

Show Your Heart Some Love This Month and Beyond

While some peoples’ minds might be on Valentine’s Day, February is American Heart Month and I think this is a perfect time for everyone to get serious about cardiovascular health. Yes, we associate the heart with love, and we consider February the love month, but it’s deeper than that. To me, February should also be a month about self-love and what better way to love yourself than to take care of one of the most vital parts of your body!

Self-care is self-love in action and prioritizing your cardiovascular health is the ultimate self-care practice!

Women and Black Americans especially need to have heart health on their radar year-round.

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States? According to the CDC, heart disease is the cause of about 1 in every 5 female deaths.

Research also shows that cardiovascular disease and CVD mortality are increasing in working-age adults and that Black adults in the United States die from heart disease at a rate two times higher than White adults.

If you’re diabetic, overweight, or sedentary you’re at an even greater risk for heart disease. Eating an unhealthy diet and drinking too much alcohol can also take a toll.

Don’t worry – I’m not going to just burden you with doom and gloom statistics and then sign off. There are things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Don’t skip your check-ups. It’s called preventative care for a reason. See your general practitioner at least once a year so you can keep an eye on things like your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Uncontrolled blood pressure and uncontrolled diabetes can both lead to heart disease.

Get or stay active. Physical inactivity increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, so get your body moving. Each week adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and 2 days of muscle strengthening activity, according to the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Of course, you should talk to your doctor before starting a workout regimen.

Add color. Adding more fruits and vegetables to your meals is a great way to build a heart-healthy diet.

Reduce your stress. I know that’s a lot easier said than done, but stress is bad for your heart, too, so it’s important to keep it in check. Meditation and exercise can help. Also, make time for other activities you enjoy. But don’t fill your calendar so much that you can’t get adequate sleep. Rest is key. Connecting with your community can also help you manage stress. And don’t be ashamed to seek help from a counselor or therapist.

Sober up. Cutting back on alcohol can reduce your risk for heart disease. Try to stick to no more than one drink a day. And if you smoke – stop! Here is some info on ways you can quit.

Staying Heart Healthy On-the-Go

Making heart healthy choices can be tough when you’re super busy – especially if you’re traveling a lot. Because I’m a professional athlete, it’s part of my job to stay active when I’m traveling. But that may not be the case for you. Getting in your workouts on business trips can be tough. But it’s not impossible. Here is a fun hotel workout recommended by the American Heart Association. Just put on your favorite playlist and get going. No equipment needed.

Warm up by repeating the following moves continuously for five minutes:

  • 30 arm circles

  • 20 jumping jacks

  • 20 calf raises

For your workout, repeat the following two times:

  • 20 squats

  • 30-second plank

  • 10 crunches

  • 20 lunges

Cool down with a five-minute stretch.

And here are some healthy snacks the AHA recommends:

Crunchy Munchies

  • Apples and pears

  • Carrot and celery sticks

  • Bell pepper slices

  • Zucchini or cucumber

  • Roasted chickpeas

  • Broccoli and cauliflower florets

  • Popcorn

  • Rice cakes

  • Whole-grain crackers

  • Nuts and seeds

Snacks to Satisfy Hunger

  • Whole-grain toast with peanut or almond butter

  • Cherry tomatoes with hummus

  • Low-fat cheese

  • Plain, low-fat yogurt

  • Fruit & veggie smoothie

  • Whole-grain crackers with canned tuna or salmon

Snacks to Curb Your Sweet Tooth

  • Canned fruit (in natural juice)

  • Baked apple

  • Unsweetened dried fruits

  • Frozen grapes or bananas

  • Fresh fruit salad

By staying active, eating more fruits and vegetables, keeping your blood pressure and blood sugar in check, and reducing stress and alcohol intake you can give your heart the love and care it deserves.

Think of your loved ones and prioritize your heart health ❤️