February is the month for love and romance, often symbolized by hearts. So, it’s no surprise that it’s also named American Heart Month. Healthcare providers use this opportunity to focus on the heart and its important role as one of the body’s “premier organs.”
Secret Tips For the Health of Your Heart, Mind, and Spirit
This year, we want to go beyond the standard tips for heart health:
- Healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Stress management
- Observing annual wellness visits with all healthcare providers (G.P., specialists, OB/GYNs, optometrists, etc.)
- Quitting unhealthy (addictive) habits
- And so on…
Instead, we want to dive deeper into the research and lesser-known “secret” tips that support healthier hearts. And because the body is an integrated being, a healthier heart leads to a healthy mind, body, and spirit.
Secret Heart Tip #1: Laugh more often (spend time with those who bring you joy)
The first on this list is to laugh more often by seeking joy in your life. People who laugh more often, including those who experience joy and gratitude, have healthier hearts, better artery function, and increased blood flow (harvard.edu).
How often are you experiencing a good, hearty laugh per day? Even something as simple as watching a comedy show for 30 minutes can improve heart function for up to 24 hours! We also recommend scheduling screen-free time with the family, a great way to laugh more, practice gratitude, and make memories that last a lifetime.
Secret Heart Tip #2: Process stored grief
Believe it or not, the more you honor #2, the easier you’ll honor #1. Those who experience heartbreak or significant loss are at higher risk for heart attacks and strokes. If they don’t find ways to process, express, and learn to live with their grief, that elevated risk increases even more.
According to the American Heart Association, people who keep their grief inside and don’t find healthy ways to process it as it comes back up over time are at higher risk for:
- Changes in heart muscle cells (cardiomyopathy) that some doctors refer to as “broken heart syndrome.”
- Heart attacks
- Disrupted sleep
- Persistent sluggishness or lack of zest for life
- Lowered immune system function
- Depression and suicidal thoughts
If you’re waiting for some “right time” to deal with or handle grief you’ve buried over the years, it’s time to get the support you need. Examples include:
- Free one-on-one and/or group grief support from local hospice care providers.
- Working with a therapist specializing in grief.
- Keep a journal and write letters to the people, pets, and situations that caused the grief you experience.
- Read or participate in events led by some of the nation’s foremost grief companions/facilitators (many of which host grief rituals and processing online), such as Megan Devine, Francis Weller, and Alan Wolfelt.
If you’ve experienced traumatic grief, such as miscarriage or the death of a child, we recommend connecting with groups that hold space for that. Examples include The MISS Foundation and The Grief Specialist.
Secret Heart Tip #3: Spice up the sex life
One of the biggest fears of women and men with heart disease is that it will curb their sex life or that sex will be dangerous. Not so. Start scheduling some romantic date nights and relax, knowing the science proves sex is good for your heart!
Recent studies suggest that:
…men who have sex at least twice a week and women who report having satisfying sex lives are less likely to have a heart attack. The protective benefits [of sex] may be many: Sex is a form of exercise and helps strengthen your heart, lower your blood pressure, reduce stress and improve sleep. In addition, intimacy in a relationship can increase bonding.
So, spicing up your sex life and cultivating intimacy and meaningful (heart-felt) connection is one of the best things you can do to support heart health.
Is sex uncomfortable for you? Or, do you find you’ve lost your libido? Speak to your gynecologist about underlying reasons and workable solutions.
Secret Heart Tip #4: Get the whole family (or workplace) CPR-certified
A 2023 Heart Health article on heart.org states, “Did you know that women are statistically less likely to receive lifesaving CPR than men? That’s one of the reasons cardiovascular disease continues to be the No. 1 killer of women in the United States.” What a depressing fact, and there’s no excuse for it.
Get your family onboard and take a CPR-certification course. We also encourage you to bring CPR certification to the workplace, too. The more people who know how to administer CPR properly, the more lives we’ll save. Look for Red Cross or American Heart Association CPR certification classes near you.
Secret Heart Tip#5: Take advantage of free, local heart screenings
As we mentioned in the intro, observing annual wellness visits is one of the best things you can do to promote heart health for yourself and your family. However, this month, MinuteClinics around the country provide free heart screening. Once you’ve made an appointment, print or save this MinuteClinic Heart Screening Voucher and present it for your free heart screening.
Women’s Health Associates Protects Our Patients’ Tender Hearts
Are you interested in making a stronger commitment to promoting a healthier heart? Then, schedule your next women’s wellness visit at Women’s Health Associates. We’ll review these and other ways to keep your heart healthy, happy, and “hearty” for many years to come.