February is American Heart Month. If you’re a regular reader of the Fitbit Blog and are a Fitbit user, you already know how important activity is for your overall health. We recently focused on some insightful and helpful statistics about walking and improving your health. This month we’re seeing red, honing in on heart health.
To kick off Hearth Month, we dug up some great stats from the American Heart Association and other sources to help keep you motivated to move. While many of us just love to get/stay activate out of sheer enjoyment, many people do find it helpful to connect the dots from activity to actual health-improving results. Keep it in the back of your mind during those inevitable “down days,” when you really have to push yourself to move. Hey, it happens to the best of us!
But let’s not put the cart before the horse. You don’t get the positive results without actively taking steps (no pun intended) to get there. So here are a few tips from our friends at HeartMath to get you on the right track toward managing heart health, and a huge contributor to heart problems: stress.
- Practice kindness and patience. Positive feelings of kindness and patience can really help when you’re irritable. It can takes less than a minute to calm yourself and increase overall positivity, which can help reduce stress and lead to long-term heart benefits. And remember last week when we provided plenty of evidence that the act of giving makes us feel happy? That logically extends to the heart.
- Pets are a great way to manage stress. Now, we’re not pushing you to go out and impulse-adopt a pet. But research has shown that even petting an animal can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure. Dog-sitting over the weekend is a great way to start.
- Adjust your eating habits. We are what we eat, right? It’s no surprise that the foods we choose to eat directly affect our short- and l0ng-term health. Certain foods can fight disease, others help lower blood pressure or regulate blood sugar. Foods naturally rich in vitamins and minerals can help fight increased levels of cortisol – a stress hormone. Next time you get the urge to binge on greasy fast food or ice cream, try a handful of vitamin C-packed berries instead!
- Be social and exercise. Enjoying the company of others can relieve feelings of tension and improve overall psychological well-being. Taking a walk or exercising with others has an amazingly positive effect – and adds many more steps! Being with others that we care for can increase our positive emotional experiences. Some positive emotions have been shown to increase DHEA, known as the anti-aging hormone, and trigger oxytocin, known as the love hormone. These good-for-you hormones can help combat stress and may even boost the immune system.
Furthermore, activity increases mental wellness. That rush of adrenaline and the calm feeling that follows a great workout session? It’s not just confined to a single workout! It’s been proven that over time, those feelings can extend to your general everyday well-being. And that’s good for your heart. Follow the above tips, become more active, and you’re fast on your way to enjoying the benefits of these 14 heart-healthy statistics:
- Activity actually enhances your immune system, protecting your heart and reduce your chances of developing heart disease.
- Increasing your activity can lower your blood pressure by as much as 4 to 9 mm Hg.
- Physical activity improves blood circulation, which reduces the risk of heart disease.
- Becoming more active keeps weight under control, and as you might guess, that puts less stress on the heart.
- Blood cholesterol levels improve under increased activity.
- Blood pressure goes down or becomes manageable when regularly active.
- An active lifestyle can improve your quality of sleep, while poor sleep can contribute to heart disease.
- Activity reduces coronary heart disease in women by 30-40 %
- Children can see life-long heart-healthy habits by becoming active at a young age.
- Walking can lower risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running.
- Walking can significantly reduce the risk for first-time hypertension by 7.2 percent.
- Walking can reduce first-time high cholesterol by 4.3 percent
- Walking can reduce coronary heart disease by 4.5 percent
- Any activity that makes your heart work harder will help you meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.