By Samantha Brockschmidt • February 03, 2014
Back in elementary school, I wasn’t quite aware how much American Heart Month impacted me each February. We celebrated nearly all day playing outside. As adults, though, we tend to overlook the needed break from our work, the needed release of tension found only in playing and being active.
When I see how my behaviors have changed, and those of my social network, it makes me think how we can do better. There is a reason children have more energy than we do as adults, and you cannot blame it solely on genetics or age. I’ve seen seniors doing yoga and jogging miles while picking up trash in their community. It is will power that makes our heart survive beyond our designated expiration date. With that, here are 10 easy and affordable steps to a better heart—and all these steps are possible.
1. Correct sleep deprivation
It is a known fact that sleep deprivation is unhealthy. Children get roughly 8-9 hours of sleep. Adults, an average of 5-6 hours. I suffer from minor insomnia. It is a habit I trained myself from watching television late and going out more often than not. My brother has put himself to sleep at a decent hour every since he was a kid, and now I’m trying to follow his lead.
Make it a habit to go to bed at a decent time. Some people snore, a problem caused by restricted air flow through the jaw or nasal cavity. For that, you could try My Snoring Solution, a jaw-supporting sleeping aid that reduces snoring and lowers blood pressure. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep could be a cause for ADHD, night terrors or hallucinations, and lowered immunity. You could try to exercise more and burn off some of that excess energy before bed. Eat earlier and drink some “sleepy time” tea. Sleep is perhaps the simplest way to protect your heart.
2. Kick the ca-ca-ca-caffeine
Ever feel anxious when you’ve had a lot of coffee? Or have you had it so much that when you try to cut back you feel sluggish or get a headache? Caffeine is a drug. As I type this, I am drinking a hazelnut macchiato myself. I woke up two hours early just to beat the traffic to work. There was a Jamba Juice on the way over, but I decided to go with the quicker, short-term energy booster.
Try your best to lower your coffee intake. If you drink five cups a day, cut it down to one. For those starting in on the trend, try pouring yourself a mug with orange juice instead. My grandfather has practiced medicine for years. As a doctor and always on call, he needed some way to stay awake delivering babies and going into surgery. It was his job, a lifesaving one that requires consistent attention. Nurses would give him and other doctors orange juice to stay awake. It worked, and if it works for that kind of restless sleep-deprivation, it can work for your sluggish morning.
3. Go idle
Part of America’s increased restlessness is the overconsumption of technology. That’s why your eyes hurt from staring at the computer screen or your phone all day. Tune out! It is so draining to be “connected” every second.
Not only have we lost consciousness of the real world, but the Internet has become a crutch. The irony of its liberty is that we all have once pretended to be on our phones because we do not know how to be alone. Try not logging onto Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram a couple hours before you go to bed. If you do this, you will feel more relaxed. Watch television instead. For some reason the LCD lights on a computer screen are worse for the brain than that of the television. You want a healthier heart, right? A healthy heart knows how to pump on its own for a minute. You will get better sleep, more energy, and less stress from not caring what your friends did every minute of the day.
4. Go meatless … at least for a bit
I am in no way a vegan, vegetarian, or advocate of a meatless diet in any way. Let’s put that out there right now. However, veggies are good for you, and there are unique super foods like quinoa and blueberries packed with vitamins and antioxidants that do stimulate a healthier diet. Though, there are supplements that are also falsified heath benefits, so it is important to know what you are buying. With Live Superfoods, you’re purchasing only products rich in phytonutrients to natural detoxify all the garbage you store in your body. There is a reason your parents made you eat your veggies, and now that you finally realize you should have listened to them, you can eat healthier for your heart.
5. See the doc
Seeing a doctor is life-saving. People think that by working out and eating right they are in the clear. My diabetic father thought he was fine, too. He has never been sensitive to pain, and one day, he wound up in the hospital fighting an overdose of potassium. Too much of anything is never good. Every day he ate bananas to stay healthy, and the potassium-rich medicine prescribed to him started making him sick. He was wise enough to connect the medicine to feeling unwell, but he got lucky. Diabetic or not, check with your doctor regularly. Your heart is such a fragile organ, no matter how strong, and all bodies function differently. Doctors make a vow to practice medicine safely, and their education may just save your life.
6. Accept how small you really are
This is my favorite heart-healthy tip. A heart beats because it’s physically in shape and emotionally stable. Appreciating the world around you, living that “hakuna matata” ideal, is so stress-relieving. When there is less stress on yourself, you put less strain on your heart. I know this all too well. In the last year alone I had so many health problems. After being sick for months, I finally went to a doctor. A swollen lymph node in my neck meant I may have cancer and it had to be removed. This opened my eyes. After grueling surgery and intense recovery, my heart felt free! I accepted what had to be done, and when I found out the tissue was benign, I never felt the same. I demanded more from myself, for my family, and to live vivaciously. My heart has never felt healthier emotionally, and it is in that state of utter gratefulness that you can really feel alive.
7. Make up or break up
Haven’t you ever been skeptical about beauty products? There are thousands of anti-aging, anti-hair loss, anti-everything that are just phony. If anyone really did have a magical fountain of youth, it would be out of my budget. However, there are beauty products that steer away from harsh chemicals that can be bad for your health. Think of it in this sense—a company wants your business, so they aren’t going to provide a product that solves your marketing need in one purchase.
100% Pure is a nature-based cosmetic and beauty care line that tells you what ingredients are really being used, while knowing that the shampoos, conditioners, and makeup you buy is meant to run out. You like that it doesn’t cause harm to your skin or hair, and they offer free samples with every order so you can try what works for you. It is nice to not worry about your appearance so much, and even nicer when you are buying a product for practical use.
8. Find your inner athlete
Your body is muscle. Use it or lose it. Regular exercise is important and we do have the time. Each night I try to workout at least two minutes. You may laugh but a few stretches, mountain climbers, and punch-kick combinations keeps my mind and body limber. I also love sports! Working out doesn’t have to be going to the gym. You can do anything from basketball to a hike with friends, riding your bike to simply walking. Walking is actually a lot healthier than running, too, since it puts less impact on your joints.
What I like about Sports Authority is that you can choose from a variety of sporting and exercise gear to fit your lifestyle, budget, and idea of fun. Try something new, too! There is plenty of high-endurance sports equipment available. You can even buy weighted boxing gloves to build muscle strength while you jog or balance balls or dumbbells to exercise at home. Just have fun!
9. Puppy power!
Research has found that people who own pets live longer. Adopt a dog or cat, get a fish, buy a hamster! Who knew tips to a healthy heart came in such a cute package? Whether you live in a small apartment or house, there is a pet that can keep you company. That sense of having a pet around provides comfort. Pet Smart always has pet adoptions and discounted supplies. You can also temporarily shelter animals through a number of pet rescues if you cannot commit to caring for an animal. Even the slightest form of companionship makes the heart smile.
10. Touch therapy
I truly believe in touch therapy. One study I heard about found that orphaned infants when held regularly by nurses had a much higher survival rate than those that were left to themselves more often. I myself witnessed this comrade warmth when I’ve rubbed my grandfather’s back at night, or when my mother held my hand after surgery. There is something magical about feeling loved, that vital TLC every being needs. The heart feels weakened when alone, which is why elderly couples tend to pass away within the same time frame of each other. Your heart is strong with support, and like a valve pumping blood, feeling close to another breathes you life.
All possible steps, right? Some you may never have thought of, and others you’ve heard, but it really doesn’t matter when caring for your heart. By following any one of these tips, you can support American Heart Month each day.
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Samantha Brockschmidt Samantha Brockschmidt is passionate about adventure and writing. With her B.A. in Communication Studies and Marketing, her career has only just begun! This adrenaline guru is learning just how fast-paced LA really is, and she cannot wait to share it all with you!