February is American Heart Month. Although the relationship between good mental health and heart health is certainly complex, it is a proven fact that good blood flow from the heart to the brain is important for overall wellness.
Certainly, when someone has a heart attack, heart surgery or stroke, the immediate concern is physical health. At the same time, research has shown cardiovascular disease can trigger depression and the need for counseling and medication.
With these thoughts in mind, consider lifestyle changes and good habits to maintain a healthy heart.
Here are a few tips
Let’s talk about the American Heart Association’s seven risk factors as areas for improvement to live longer and healthier lives:
- Manage your blood pressure: When you keep your blood pressure within healthier ranges you reduce stress on your heart. There are five blood pressure ranges to consider that clearly indicate a normal blood pressure or one of the elevated levels. Find out your blood pressure and consider if you need to make changes.
- Control cholesterol: High cholesterol can clog arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke. In short, reducing saturated fats and trans fats helps and focusing on foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber can help. Consider your eating habits and what may need to change.
- Reduce blood sugar: High levels of blood sugar damage the heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. Drink plenty of water and cut down on carb intake. Seek a low carb diet to reduce blood sugar.
- Get active: Physical activity improves the length and the quality of life. Sometimes finding ways to enjoy exercise with others increases success. Good goals include 20 to 30 minutes a day or three times a week.
- Eat better: A healthful diet is one of the best ways to fight heart disease. Among the many books on healthful eating is the “Mayo Clinic Diet: Eat well. Enjoy life, Lose weight.” It’s a playbook for solidifying healthful eating habits, and it is well researched.
- Lose weight: Losing weight takes stress off your heart. Find tried and true methods, such as the Mayo Clinic book, which focuses on changing lifestyle habits to lose weight for the long term.
- Stop smoking: Smoking increases likelihood of having heart disease. The warnings about the dangers of smoking are well known. Smoking generally increases the risk for coronary heart disease by two to four times, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, known as the CDC. Similarly, consider the dangers of nicotine in vaping.
For starters, take some steps
So maybe the best advice for American Heart Month is to take a walk. While you are on your walk think about the seven risk factors and where your best opportunities for improvement may exist.
It could be learning to live with lightly salted foods or gulping the recommended eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. Or maybe it amounts to choosing new types of exercise and gearing up the gym bag.
It’s always a good time find opportunities to improve your health.
While our expertise is in mental health, we are happy to advocate for the importance of American Heart Month. Just as many physical health challenges can be healed, mental illnesses are often treatable, so please don’t hesitate to seek assistance. Remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. And to learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please call the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. Community Reach Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services for all ages at locations in Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield. As always, we are here to enhance the health of our community. Mental wellness for everyone is our goal.