Heart Health: Ingalls Offers Simple Steps to Keep Your Ticker in Top Form

 

(February 2017)

Your heart works hard 24/7, so why not show it a little love?

The best way is to incorporate heart-healthy behaviors into your daily lifestyle, explains Barbara Ferrari, RN, BA, CPFT, Heart Health Coordinator at Ingalls Hospital. And it’s easier than you might think.

Follow these tips to keep your ticker in top form:

Stay active. The old adage, “Move it or lose it,” isn’t just for couch potatoes. Even people who exercise regularly can be at added risk for heart disease if they spend lots of time sitting. Researchers say prolonged sitting of up to eight hours a day can be as harmful as smoking or having elevated blood pressure or cholesterol levels. Ferrari recommends using a kitchen timer or an alarm on your phone when you have to sit at your desk or computer.  “Set your timer for two hours,” she explains. “When it goes off, reset it for 5 minutes and then start to move. Think of it as recess. Put music on, do jumping jacks, go up and down your stairs, build in those little activity moments to break up the long-term sitting. At night, shake it up during commercial breaks.” Every little bit helps. And don’t forget to incorporate physical activity – at least 30 minutes five days a week – into your regular routine.

Choose whole foods. Think foods that are fresh, frozen and minimally processed. Ferrari likes to explain the concept using a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich as an example. “Back in the day, jelly was made of fruit,” she says. “Now, it contains a lot of sugar and not a lot of nutritional value.” Instead of white bread, use whole-wheat bread, then choose natural peanut or almond butter and top it with fresh fruit instead of jelly. Bananas, berries and apples pair well with peanut butter. “My favorite is pear and almond butter,” she adds.

Find ways to manage stress. For adults, every day is a juggling act of work and family.  That can lead to stress and occasional outbursts of anger. But when stress and anger flare up a lot, your health – and your heart – can be at risk. Find ways to manage your stress, whether it’s taking a walk, reading a book or calling a friend. Find an outlet that works and use it whenever you feel stress levels building.

Reduce toxins. That includes environmental and dietary toxins. “Avoid smoke if you have friends that smoke,” Ferrari says. “Watch your fat intake.” Olives, for example, contain healthy, monounsaturated fat. A handful of olives is a great choice. A handful of potato chips, on the other hand, contains saturated fats, the kind that can raise cholesterol levels and clog arteries. Also avoid added salt, which can elevate blood pressure and lead to achy joints, and processed foods with a lot of added chemicals.

Find out more about heart-healthy living at Ingalls’ upcoming program Hearts in the Right Place: Getting to the Heart of Healthy Habits. This free event is set for Saturday, Feb. 25, 3-5 p.m., at Ingalls Family Care Center in Flossmoor and is appropriate for both men and women. Highlights include timely heart-health tips, a cooking demonstration, informational booths and a mini Zumba class.

“A healthy heart requires essential ingredients to work at its best,” Ferrari adds. “Learn to perfect your recipe to achieve optimal heart health.”

Registration is required. To save your spot, call Ingalls Care Connection at 708.915.CARE (2273).

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