Keenan Blog

Valentine’s Day 2021: Matters of the Heart

February 12, 2021

February marks American Heart Month and, as Valentine’s Day approaches, we encourage you to use this as a reminder to show your heart a little love! Although COVID-19 has been the major focus in recent months, we can’t forget other care issues that require our attention in order to maintain good health and manage preexisting conditions. The pandemic may have thrown quite a crimp in our usual routine, possibly including decreased physical activity, straying from healthy eating, and even putting off important follow-up visits with our doctors.

If your fitness and care goals aren’t where you and your physician would like them, this February you can get back on track. Most importantly, if you are experiencing unusual and sudden symptoms, such as dizziness, chest pain, unexplained leg pain or swelling, get immediate emergency help by calling 911. But maybe you have simply cancelled a regular visit (or two) with your doctor while isolating yourself from the virus. It might be time to reschedule that appointment or set up a telehealth visit to catch up on your care.

There’s so much you can do to help prevent future heart problems, and even improve conditions that may have already emerged. The National Institutes of Health recommends these heart-healthy lifestyle tips to protect your heart. You don’t have to make big changes all at once. Small steps will get you where you want to go.

Move more

For more motivation, invite family, friends, or colleagues to join you in your efforts to be more physically active:

  • Ask someone to walk “with you” on a regular basis, put the date on both your calendars, and text or call to make sure you both get out for a walk, even if you do it from separate places.
  • Get a friend or family member to sign up for the same online exercise class.Make it a regular date!
  • Put on music and do jumping jacks, skip rope, or dance in your living room or yard with the kids.

Aim for at least 2½ hours of exercise each week—that’s just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. In addition, do muscle strengthening exercises two days a week. To work up to your goals, start with 10 or 15 minutes, gradually increasing each week.

Aim for a healthy weight

If you’re overweight, even a small weight loss of 5–10 percent helps your health. Participate in healthy activities, like walking or cooking a healthy meal using low-calorie, low-sodium recipes.

Eat heart-healthy

Try NHLBI’s free Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. Research shows that, compared to a typical American diet, it lowers high blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels.

Quit smoking

Breaking the habit can be an uphill battle and it helps if you have support to stop smoking. All states have quit lines with trained counselors – call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). You’ll find many free resources to help you quit. If you need extra motivation to quit, consider your loved ones. Many adult nonsmokers suffer effects of secondhand smoke like stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer.

Manage stress

Reducing stress helps your heart health. Set goals to do a relaxing activity every day, like walking, yoga, meditation, or participate in an online stress-management program. Physical activity also helps reduce stress. If your stress is unmanageable, talk to a qualified mental health provider.

Improve sleep

Sleeping 7–8 hours a night helps to improve heart health. De-stressing will help you sleep, as does getting a 30-minute daily dose of sunlight. Take a walk instead of a late afternoon nap! Remember to stick to a regular bedtime. Instead of looking at your phone or the TV before bed, relax by listening to music, reading, or taking a bath.

Track Your Heart Health Stats

Keeping a log of your blood pressure, weight goals, physical activity, and if you have diabetes, your blood sugars, will help you stay on a heart-healthy track.

A Valentine’s Day gift, sweet treat, or a homemade valentine are nice gestures, but a caring act goes so much further. Take positive action to improve your heart health and decrease your risks. It will also be a great way to show your valentines that you look forward to being with them for a long time!