Make changes that are sustainable and right for you in small, manageable
increments. -- Ruth Lindquist
by Ruth Lindquist
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. Every year, the designation of February as heart health month reminds us of the centrality of our hearts and heightens our awareness of our heart health. Your heart, like anything that you value, needs to be taken care of. Positive health habits can prevent or delay the development of heart disease or prevent its progression.
It is important for women to find a health care provider that you trust, but don't expect her to give you better health in an annual 15-minute visit! It is what you do routinely every day outside your provider's office that makes a difference in your health. Set your goals for improving your health behavior. Make changes that are sustainable and right for you in small, manageable increments. Your optimal health is an ideal, not an absolute, and achieving it is an ongoing process.
From my 35 years working as a nurse with heart patients, I cannot say enough about the benefits of prevention. Get seven to eight hours of sleep every night (you deserve it!). Eat more fruits and vegetables. Plan a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, and plan to accomplish your daily exercise all at once or in 10-minute sessions. Include resistance training two or three times per week. If you smoke, stop. We've heard these recommendations before - because they do matter.
Reward yourself regularly for the good changes in health behavior you have made. The "sweet treat" of 10 minutes of meditation, quiet reflection, or spending time with family or friends can be savored longer than the fleeting taste of chocolate. Determine what activity rewards you, and remember to save time to relish that activity often. Make tiny improvements or small changes in health-
related behaviors to enjoy the improved functioning and well-being that good health brings! Resolve to make this February your month to actively improve your heart health.
Ruth Lindquist lives in Lakeville and teaches in the University of Minnesota School of Nursing. For more information on heart health, she recommends www.heart.org and choosing the "Getting Healthy" tab.