Maintaining a Healthy Heart at Work
February is American Heart Month, which makes now the perfect time to evaluate your own heart heath and recommit to living a healthier lifestyle at home and in the office. Did you know that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States? This startling statistic is why committing to heart health is so important. The American Heart Association suggests that for a healthy heart, we follow “Life’s Simple 7”: stop smoking, get active, lose weight, eat better, manage blood pressure, control cholesterol and reduce blood sugar. These seven steps to living a healthier lifestyle and having a healthier heart can be accomplished in the office by making simple (but meaningful) modifications throughout your work day.
- Quit smoking: It is common knowledge in most workplaces that the employees who smoke seem to take frequent breaks throughout the day. Not only do these smoke breaks cut into productivity, but if you smoke, you are putting yourself at risk for heart attacks and strokes. Cut out the need to take frequent breaks and decrease your risk of heart disease this February during American Heart Month by quitting smoking. Since quitting smoking is obviously easier said than done, it can feel more achievable if you find a coworker who also wants to quit so that you have a support system in place at the office.
- Get active: It’s no secret that an inactive lifestyle is a risk factor for heart disease, but it can seem impossible to live an active lifestyle at work (especially if your job involves sitting at a desk). Luckily, there are ways to increase your activity level throughout your workday. Making the choice to ride your bike into work, taking the stairs instead of using the elevator, and using your breaks to go for walks are all simple ways that you can add some movement to your day.
- Eat better: If you want to dedicate yourself to maintaining a healthy heart, but find yourself eating out most days for lunch, you may want to consider brown bagging instead of ordering out. Since living a healthy lifestyle is all about choices, trade in that burger and fries for a heart healthy lunch option such as: salmon, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids, and squash, which is high in fiber. To satisfy your sweet tooth, try making yourself a fruit medley or try a piece of dark chocolate that is at least 70 percent cocoa (which is not only a healthy dessert alternative, but has been linked to actually lowering the risk of heart disease).
- Manage blood pressure: Work is often a cause of stress, and can negatively affect your blood pressure and your heart health. In order to manage your blood pressure at work, lower your stress level by getting an adequate amount of sleep nightly, delegating tasks, managing your time appropriately, asking for help when you feel overwhelmed, and saying no when you are unable to take on any more projects.
- Control cholesterol: Cholesterol plays an important role in your heart’s health, and luckily there are some modifications (in addition to quitting smoking and increased activity level) that can help you to get your cholesterol under control from your desk. The easiest way to control your cholesterol from your desk is to simply replace one of your normal snacks with a small serving of nuts. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition conducted a study that found that people who ate 1.5 oz. of whole walnuts six days a week for an entire month were able to lower their cholesterol by 5.4 percent
- Reduce blood sugar: Along with being a risk factor for diabetes, high blood sugar is also linked to heart disease. Say no to the sugary and carb packed snacks that always seem to make their way into the break room, and encourage coworkers to bring veggie platters instead of boxes of donuts. In addition, switch that soda for a bottle of water the next time you need to quench your thirst since drinking more water has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels.
- Lose weight: If you dedicate yourself to maintaining good heart health, losing weight should be the culmination of being active, eating healthier, reducing your blood sugar and controlling your cholesterol. Losing weight is extremely important for heart heath and it is possible to achieve through maintaining a healthy diet and making choices daily to live an active lifestyle.
As you may have noticed, “Life’s Simple 7” all relate to one another. For example, weight loss would be impossible without considering diet and exercise, and in order to control your cholesterol you need to make healthier meal choices, quit smoking and exercise. Use this list to start brainstorming ways to incorporate heart health into your own work day, and make sure that you use February as a time to form habits that will lead to a healthy lifestyle, and ultimately a healthy heart.
Of course, before you begin any changes in your routine that will affect your heart it is important to consult with your physician.