Heart Health Month

February is American Heart Health month. You may be thinking, “What is a physical therapy practice doing writing about heart health?” Well there are a few reasons, aside from the fact that there is a specialization within the field dedicated to cardiovascular and pulmonary treatments.

First, the advice I’m giving is very basic – but I would argue also very important. If you have read something similar it already – feel free to move along or share it with a friend or family member who may find the information useful. Second, here at Advantage we like to think that we help our patients, Move Better, Feel Better and Live Better. If you read on, you will come to realize the ability to move freely can positively impact not only our heart health but overall health. Finally, I have a very personal reason for sharing this info. The person pictured, is my brother, Tony Aram. Our family lost Tony suddenly on June 17, 2014 to a heart attack at the age of 50. This is his picture from his oldest daughter’s wedding in April of 2014. I never would have guessed he would have been gone from this earth a few short months later. I miss him dearly.

Unfortunately, people die suddenly every day. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and woman. Almost one in every four deaths can be attributed to heart disease in the U.S. If heart health is not on your radar, it should be. Don’t know where to start? Read on:

• Get Checked Out
If you do not have a physician, find one. Get an annual physical complete with a lab workup done. Too many of us tend to our health in a reactionary manner. We only go to the doctor when we are sick. Why not go and get your baseline, find out where you stand. High Blood Pressure is often referred to as “The silent killer” because it typically has no symptoms until it has done significant heart and arteries. Maybe your blood pressure is fine – maybe everything is fine, but wouldn’t you want to know?

• Get Moving
Perhaps you have heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” We’re learning more and more about the negative effects of inactivity on our health. Many of us now equate the term “marathon” with our plans to sit on the couch and binge watch a season of Sons of Anarchy on Netflix. I am not suggesting you go out and run 26.2 miles, but start by putting one foot in front of the other. Take the stairs when possible. When shopping, park towards the back of the lot and walk. Small actions add up to big changes over time. If you’re inactive, find an activity you enjoy – you’re much more likely to incorporate activity into your daily life. For those who exercise regularly, I’ve found mixing it up from time to time, cures any boredom and brings you through plateaus you may have reached.

• Find Ways to Manage Stress
While stress may be unavoidable, we must find ways to manage it in our lives. I find exercise is a great way to manage my stress (see Get Moving). Furthermore, make sure you get enough rest. Sleep is important. Your mind and body need to refresh and recharge. Recently, I have found that meditation or mindfulness has provided some personal benefits. There are many apps you can check out if you do not know where to start. Personally, I have been using Headspace but there are many others available such as Calm or Omvana.

• Eat Well
I love food. I enjoy cooking and eating…a lot. Eating well does not mean you have to deprive yourself of all the foods you love. As with anything in life, practice moderation. Educate yourself about food. May I suggest starting with sugar? Learn to read food labels AND research how food is marketed. Many of those terms like “all natural” do not mean a whole lot from a nutritional standpoint. Once you learn more, I bet cutting back may not be as difficult. This is another area where I have made small changes over the years and that have had a cumulative effect – keeping off the extra 40 pounds I lost about 15 years ago following my spine surgery. I find I do not miss many things and if I do I eat it every once in a while.

• Plan for the Unexpected
Despite all my best efforts or all your best efforts, none of us really know when we are going to meet our maker. Whether it is a heart attack or being “hit by a bus” people unexpectedly pass every day. If you have a spouse and children have you thought about how they would get along without you? Have you prepared a will? Do you have life insurance? It is heart wrenching to lose someone before we feel it’s their time. I know. Dealing with the emotional pain that brings is hard enough. Give some thought to handling the practical matters before it’s too late. Talk to your insurance agent about life insurance if you have never done so. If you do not have an insurance agent, I have been very pleased with mine. Connect with Tom Bigoski and I am sure he would be happy to educate you and provide you some options.

So that’s it. It is not rocket science. An incomplete list for sure, but a place to start. Thanks for taking the time to read. I would love to hear your stories, successes and challenges alike. Thanks for reading.