Heart. Health. Happiness.

February is American Heart Month, and maintaining good health is an important way to live longer and stronger, and happier. When the body is healthy, the mind will follow. Many don’t realize the relationship between the heart and the stomach and their effects on the rest of the body. Sure, you may know that you need to eat right to be healthy, but did you know that what you eat, when you eat and how you eat make a huge impact on your heart’s health. LifeCare Health Partners wants to offer up some healthy tips on maintaining good heart health, as we recognize Heart Month throughout February.

According to an article at EverydayHealth.com, sedentary lifestyles and junk food-heavy diets have caused obesity in over 30% of adults in the U.S.* Surprisingly, obesity affects much more than just your waistline. Obesity increases the risk of heart-related problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Let’s look at a few practical ways you can help out your heart and increase your health in the process.

What’s In Your Kitchen?

Clean up your kitchen, both in organizing it and eliminating the bad items. A “clean” kitchen is a great start to freshening up your health and your heart. Turn your kitchen into a healthy place to cook and eat. Get rid of the bad foods and replace them with better options. Check your pantry and fridge and throw out the “bad guys” like sugary sodas, candy, baked goods and sugary cereals. While you are at it, toss out anything that has passed its expiration date! Then do a quick inventory of your freezer and get rid of unhealthy frozen entrees and sugary treats to make room for meals that you can cook ahead of time for a quick lunch or dinner during the week. Smart kitchens make healthy bodies!

Take Control. Shop Smart. Plan Ahead

Eating out several nights a week has gone from being a trend to becoming the norm for Americans, and that is contributing to the downward spiral to unhealthy weight. Preparing more of your meals at home can help you take control over what you’re eating. Buying your own food and preparing it yourself ensures that you’re getting the maximum nutrients in each meal. You are in control and best of all, eating at home can help you impact your pocketbook as well as your waistline. Eating healthier options at home help build a healthy heart. Create a weekly meal plan and shopping list and stick to that list at the grocery store. Bon Appétit, and here’s to your health!

Dining Out (With Your Brain, For Your Heart)

Dining out doesn’t have to go away in your quest to eat smarter. We know it is an enjoyable part of social life for most people, and there are ways to make restaurant meals compatible with a heart-healthy life. A good suggestion is to ask the server questions about how a dish is prepared. Ask about the sauce or side dish options. Many restaurants now have healthy options notated on the menu to assist you in making a healthy decision.

Stay Active

Regular aerobic exercise is crucial for heart health, but there’s another habit that’s just as important, and that’s to simply move more. Walking a few blocks instead of driving everywhere, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or getting up and walking around the office to have a conversation instead of sending an email can really help burn more calories and keep you fit. Try to exercise every day, but if you do need to skip a day, it’s okay, just don’t give up entirely — maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint.

Sleep On It

Once you have gotten in your exercise, sleep may seem like an afterthought in our busy lives. However, sleep problems can eventually have a profound effect on your heart and your health. “Lack of sleep can affect metabolism, which can make you vulnerable to weight gain, diabetes, and even heart disease. Not enough sleep can also cause stress and make you depressed, another risk factor for heart disease. A good tip for creating an optimum sleeping atmosphere is to keep your bedroom cool and quiet. In addition, eating a big meal too late at night can ramp up your metabolism and make it difficult for your body to wind down, so it’s a good idea eat dinner at a reasonable hour. However, don’t go to bed hungry. A light, healthy snack like a slice of turkey and a glass of low-fat milk an hour or so before bedtime can help prevent the middle of the night munchies.

Post Acute Medical celebrates Heart Month by recommending a healthy and clean diet, along with exercise and regular sleep to make that heart of yours happy and healthy.