February is Heart Health Month and a great time for your annual checkup. The emphasis on cardiovascular health during February, a time when far too many are shedding their New Year’s resolutions, reminds us all to care for some of the most crucial muscles in our body. Staying heart healthy can be a greater challenge for those of us with limited mobility, but there are ways to ensure you get the diet and exercise you need to keep your ticker running like clockwork.
Avocados, red cabbage, broccoli, carrots: what do all of these veggies have in common? If you said that your mom wouldn’t let you have dessert without eating at least one of them, you owe her a hearty thanks. The American Heart Association lists these and many other nutrient-rich vegetables as part of their ongoing series of heart-healthy recipes, available to anyone online.
These foods require very little prep and can easily be added to almost any meal. Enjoying heart-healthy foods helps keep arteries clear and blood flowing throughout your body, aiding recovery and helping you stay fit throughout the year.
A lack of exercise is a danger to everyone regardless of their level of mobility. It can easily lead to obesity for those who can’t just get out and “jog off the extra calories.” Even the government is stepping in to fight obesity, with laws designed to help people regulate intake of foods that aren’t exactly friendly to cardiovascular health. While getting the nation in line with diet and a workout plan may seem like it takes an act of Congress, you can focus on getting fit with these exercises available to all from a seated or reclined position:
- Perform a series of chest presses. Reach outwards and back in, exhaling on the outreach for one second and inhaling as you pull back over two seconds. Repeat this 15 to 30 times. Add resistance bands anchored to your chair or bed if the exercise seems too easy, and increase the resistance or number of sets or repetitions as you improve.
- Take to the gym for some time on the rowing machine or arm bicycle. These handy devices are becoming more and more common in ADA-compliant locations and provide a great way to get your heart rate up to build cardiovascular strength and endurance.
- Quickly perform stretching and strength-building exercises, with a focus on form and speed instead of weight. Dial back to half weight or less and pay close attention to using the correct technique. This trains your muscles for both cardio and strength building in the future.
The thought that diet and exercise is all that you need for heart health is a bit dated. Modern studies are closer to the holistic belief of mind, body and spirit working together. You can tackle the body easy enough, but when it comes to stress management, it’s easier to keep the mind and spirit in sync through healthy sleep habits.
Learn to stop snoozing for better sleep and make a conscious effort to reduce distractions in the bedroom at night. That doesn’t mean you have to kick your significant other to the couch, but know when it’s time to turn off the lights and the screens and just relax at the end of your day. If indigestion keeps you up, try sleeping with your head elevated until you can get the problem checked out. If you aren’t getting the rest you need at bedtime, look into getting a sleep study done to find out why. It may not be as apparent as you think.
You may have already gotten the all-too-common “maximum recovery” speech from your doctor, or be in the process of reaching that goal right now, but exercising can help you stay fit and active. Even if you’re at maximum recovery, or have been there a long time, you can improve your overall health with an exercise and diet regimen that also makes time for mind and spirit recovery through sound sleep. As always, talk with your doctor before making radical changes to your diet or lifestyle, and do what works best for you in the realm of personal health and fitness.