The Valentine that Keeps on Giving
Here are 5 Inexpensive Valentines gifts!
February is “Heart Month”. Here are 5 gifts to promise your heart and your loved ones for a lasting valentine!
Once again this year’s research points to the following basic “gifts to your health” as being important for vigorous longevity, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimers and improving general wellbeing. Research has yet to produce any pills with anywhere near the benefits.
1. Go for a walk – in fact, go for 150 minutes of brisk walking or other physical activity each week (gardening, hiking, Zumba, cycling are my favorites). Whether you do it all in 1-2 days or spread out over the week, it’s a benefit. This 150 minute a week habit will not only improve your mood, but will reduce the risk of hypertension, strokes, and Alzheimer’s by 50 %. If you have a sedentary job (or a lot of “screen” time)– a new study encourages folks to get up and move for 5 minutes every 30 minutes; this will lower your BP and help manage your glucose (and benefit your sanity).
2. Move plants to the middle of your Plate – for generations in the past, Mothers reminded their children “eat your fruits and veggies”. The advent of fast foods pretty much disrupted this healthy pattern. It’s a good idea to start counting your fruits plus veggies again; aim for 5-7 (or more) each day; benefits include reducing hypertension and many cancers. And a new study showed this helps reduce frailty in aging.
Legumes (beans) have been shown to support your arteries’ (blood vessels’) ability to dilate and to prevent plaques. They’re easy to add to soups and salad, serve Mexican style on brown rice with veggies, or make a delicious chili or hummus. There’s an endless variety (over 1,000 kinds) - kidney, garbanzo, navy, adzuki, butter, canolini, lentils, peas, limas and many more.
Avoid saturated and trans fats – found mostly in animal products. These fats are the culprits in hardening of the arteries and also seem to increase some cancers. They also play a role in insulin resistence.
Choose whole grains and limit processed and fast foods high in salt and added sweeteners. Most people seem to be understanding how these contribute to hypertension, diabetes and obesity. The trick is to read the fine print on the labels. Manufacturers are still adding more sodium and sugar. Even Campbell’s new supposedly healthy YES brand has 580 mg of sodium per portion. I wrote them a letter asking them to take a look at this contradiction – still waiting for a reply. Meanwhile, don’t fall for the tricky advertising on the front – read the ingredients closely. Another important step is to cut out the #1 sugar culprit in the USA – sodas.
And don’t fall for the TV hype and advertising by the pharmaceutical companies. A cholesterol pill might make some of your numbers look better, but it won’t have near as many benefits on your arteries or for disease prevention. And a pill for diabetes might help the numbers, but choosing these healthy habits could actually reverse or prevent diabetes.
“Poly pharmacy” is a problem, with many seniors being on >10 medications; this has been shown to often produce more side affects than benefits. Meanwhile our healthy longevity is decreasing. Pills aren’t the answer – they don’t prevent or reverse disease. Go to your grocery store for your “Farmacy” and eat plenty of foods made from plants, not made in plants!
3. Be sure your home and the places you work and play are smoke free (and don’t let your kids think that “e – cigs” are safe.) (See last weeks helpful Journal article by Larry Stillwell). I think the risks of tobacco and smoking have become very clear to most. Hooray for so many community programs and public education over the years. If you’re still struggling with this addiction, don’t give up! Most people who finally successfully quit, have had to try several times. Just remember, the day you quit, your blood pressure and heart attack risk start to improve!
4. Laugh often! Laughing actually has physiologic benefits – increasing circulation to your heart and brain, decreasing blood pressure and producing powerful, helpful endorphins. Remembering to find humor in challenging situations can also help find the solution. And take time to play with the kids (spouse, friends etc) and aim for 7 hours of sleep each night.
5. And last, but probably the most important - Love - do daily good deeds, take care of Mother Earth, volunteer, stay active with family, friends, community groups, your church. Studies on health and longevity worldwide show that these are key contributors to wellbeing
When you give these gifts to your heart, chances are you’ll be giving them to those around you as well. You’ll be sharing a helpful example (and maybe share some of your delicious foods), and your good health will speak for itself.
Dr. Elizabeth George