February is a month for giving Valentines, celebrating Black history, and staying warm amidst the cold winter. But did you know it’s also American Heart Month? Sponsored by the American Heart Association, American Heart Month occurs each February and brings a special focus to the AHA’s mission: “To build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.”
You might have heard of the “Wear Red for Women” day earlier in the month that was delegated to promoting awareness of heart disease in women. The AHA is also posting daily heart health tips on a special widget on their website. Another major public health organization, Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) America, is teaming with the AHA’s heart-healthy theme for February. The goal? To empower children to live healthy lifestyles too. Your kids might be focusing on Jump Rope for Heart this month in PE classes.
Looking for some ways to promote heart-health in your family?
1. Prioritize exercise
People who don’t exercise are more likely to get heart disease. These calendars from SHAPE American give daily physical activity calendars that you can use at home for the whole family. This month’s exercises are heart-focused, as a bonus for Heart Month. Choose the elementary activity calendar for younger bodies, but there’s a secondary activity calendar for older kids. The “Ten at a Time” calendar is great for on-the-go families. It’s designed for people who “don’t have time” to exercise. Make heart health a priority for the rest of the month and aim to knock out the quick 10-rep exercises each day! Even a 10-minute walk is a great way to start incorporating physical activity in your routine!
2. Take time to breathe
Taking a few minutes a day to breathe slowly and deeply can help you relax and lower your blood pressure, a common risk factor for heart disease. Breathing exercises or breaks are great and beneficial for all ages. Breathing exercises have been proven to empower, calm, and self-regulate little ones, but the stress-relieving benefits will work for you too. Bringing attention to your breath moves your body from the “fight or flight” system to the parasympathetic nervous system that allows for relaxation and receptivity. Read: mindfulness, calmness, and a healthy body and mind.
3. Add heart-healthy foods
Nuts, seafood, whole grains, beans, and other plant-based foods are great for your heart health. Making small switches in your snack foods, salad toppings, or meat choices can reap great benefits for your heart. While you’re at it, limiting sugary drinks, salty snacks, and other foods that are high in fat or high in cholesterol will limit your risk for heart disease. These dietary adaptations can help promote a healthy weight and decrease the risk of other disease (i.e. diabetes, high blood pressure, irregular cholesterol levels), which in turn lowers your risk for heart disease.