February is Heart and Stroke Awareness Month. A healthy heart leads to a healthy body and an abundant and joyous life. I’m in my thirties now, but my maturity level has probably stayed in my early twenties. And because I think I’m 24 and immortal, I tend not to take extra precautions to keep my body consistently healthy. I know I should be more cautious, but at least I am learning to listen to my body more—after all, awareness is key, right?
Although I am not the most health conscious around, I have at least entered the world of wearable technology which has really helped me to become more aware of my health. These days data about our health is easily available on our favourite gadgets. I was hooked right from the first time I tried a fitness tracker that included a heart rate monitor (Here’s an article about some of the best fitness trackers available). As well as helping me track my steps to prevent me from being lazy, this gadget allows me to see, right on an app on my phone, how my heart is doing.
Ways to Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke
As you may have guessed, I’m no doctor. I know, it’s shocking. But I do refer to a valuable source (Harvard Medical School) to offer some key ways to reduce the risk of a stroke and help you to maintain a healthy heart. A very important caveat: please talk to your medical practitioner before undertaking a new lifestyle, even a healthier one.
- Get moving. Yes, you’ll need that fitness tracker to let you know if you’ve been sitting too long. It’s not necessary to get super intense; about 30 minutes of walking per day will be a great way to start. There are many ways to get started with fitness, even in the cold winter months: check out these great tips for more information.
- Maintain a healthy weight. I know how you feel, I too am carrying some extra pounds around my waistline. And belly weight can strain the heart, which could lead to diabetes. Eeks! A smart scale like the Qardio Base (shown here) can help you keep track of your weight and keep you motivated to improve. This is one smart scale! It measures weight, BMI, body fat percentage, muscle mass, water, and bone mass. See all the info on your phone too.
- Stick to a healthy diet. You know what’s good, and it’s not white bread and rice. Feed your body with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, unsaturated fat, good protein (from beans, nuts, fish, and poultry), and herbs and spices. Sometimes this is a challenge for people on the go, so it might be worth checking out nutritional supplements or protein powder to help. For instance, blending some Vega protein powder with almond milk and frozen berries will make an amazing morning meal. Here’s a great article on finding which Vega protein is right for you.
- Stop smoking. Cigarettes, cigars, and pipes are all bad for your heart. Smoking speeds up clot formation. It thickens your blood and increases the amount of plaque build-up in your arteries.
- Drink in moderation. Harvard Medical School suggests one to two drinks a day for men, and no more than one a day for women.
- Lower your stress level. Stress releases a hormone called adrenaline, which can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. Meditation can counter its effects by relaxing the body and mind. Many of you are probably thinking, “I’m bad at meditation,” or “I don’t know if I’m doing it correctly.” You may want to check out MUSE. It’s a brain-sensing headset that can indicate if your brain activity is high or low via an ambient sound. Basically, it’ll tell you if you are thinking too much or quieting your mind.
- Lower your blood pressure. Did you know that high blood pressure is a huge factor in increasing your chances of a stroke? It is, for both men and women. You can reduce your blood pressure by following the tips above. In addition, you can limit your salt intake to half a teaspoon a day and avoid high-cholesterol foods like burgers and ice cream.
Let’s get into blood pressure a bit more, as monitoring it is key to maintaining a healthy heart and lessening your chance of a stroke. According to the Harvard Medical School, you should ideally maintain a blood pressure of less than 120/80. But keeping it at 140/90 is also appropriate.
It’s really easy to keep track with new technology; you don’t have to go to your doctor to measure your blood pressure. For example, try the Withings Bluetooth blood pressure monitor, which provides an accurate reading of systolic and diastolic pressure and heart rate. In addition, it automatically syncs with Withings Health Mate app via Bluetooth, so you can store results and share them with your doctor.
Back to my point on awareness, sometimes learning information on your own can inspire you to take action. I know that’s the case for me. Yes, my doctor will say “Leila, you need lose a few pounds” but I assume he says that to everyone. I can see how my body is doing on the app on my phone and also see the data improve as I get healthier.
If you want to check out different blood pressure monitors on the market, make sure to look at the iHealth Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor. This one pretty much offers the same specs as the Withings but in a different style.
Before I end this article, I find that working out with great music the only way I could get moving effectively. So getting a good headset and of course the right tunes for you to keep you inspired to stay on that treadmill. But, the Sport Pulse wireless headphones by Jabra intrigue me. It’s an all-in-one fitness trainer too. Not only does it provide you with noise cancellation audio but it monitors your heart and its your personal coach. For instance, the device can track if you should slow down because your heart rate is going up at an unhealthy rate. Or it can make sure you do extra 20 crunches before you give up. Regardless, is a wireless speaker (yeah, you won’t be dealing with cords when you are trying to repetition of burpees) but it can also track that you are working out a healthy level for your heart.
Good luck on your fitness and diet regime this month. Let me know any of your tips to stay healthy. Comment below would love to hear what gets you moving.