This week is Take Care of You Week – specifically, take care of your heart. We have two back-to-back days commemorating cardiovascular care. Wednesday, September 26th is National Women’s Health & Fitness Day, and just three days later, Saturday, September 29th is World Heart Day.
It’s no surprise that obesity is endemic. In fact, obesity tops the list of preventable causes of death worldwide and is recognized for contributing to the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, as well as type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, several types of cancer, osteoarthritis, and depression.
In 2010, Michelle Obama took on obesity, launching Let’s Move, a program geared to address childhood obesity by advocating for healthier foods in schools, better food labeling, and more physical activity for children. In 2013, the American Medical Association classified obesity as a disease, and in 2015, research spanning 195 countries reported 600 million adults and 100 million children were obese.
The correlation between obesity and cardiovascular disease has long been established. As one’s BMI increases so does the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. According to the CDC:
These stats are nothing new to you. As physicians and medical coders and billers, you see a lot of patients with cardiovascular morbidities or comorbidities. You’re also aware of the behaviors that exacerbate these conditions and can even cause cardiovascular compromise in otherwise healthy persons.
Events like National Women’s Health & Fitness Day and World Heart Day serve to turn our attention to the health risks we face and encourage us to make smarter, heart-healthy lifestyle choices, like adopting better eating habits and setting aside time for physical activity on a regular basis.
A number of smart moves can lower our risk of developing coronary heart disease. We can cut salt, eliminate sugar, exercise, avoid saturated fats, exercise … do this, don’t do that. Rules, rules, rules! Trouble is, nobody really likes rules. So here’s our tip for you, the secret to staying on the heart-healthy path.
Say yes to sports and to physical activities that you enjoy. Encourage your patients to do the same, and you just might see better compliance with treatment protocols.
Not too many people like exercise, if you hadn’t noticed. The word, alone, summons images of sweaty gyms and military-like regimens with people lined up in rows doing jumping jacks in unison. Maybe some people thrive in scenes like this, but most don’t. Most people despise the mere thought of exercise, hating it as much as they hate the idea of dieting.
It’s time we change our rhetoric—including our self-talk—and change the way we approach exercise and dieting. Discipline, after all, will only get us so far. We’re pretty much creatures of comfort wired to seek pleasure, not pain. So let’s take the sting out of healthy living. Let’s remove discipline from the equation—and exercise and dieting from our vocabularies.
Dance. Indulge in the relaxation of yoga. Get out in the great outdoors for a foot-tour of Mother Nature’s finest. Treat yourself to physical activities you find pleasurable.
Carve out space in the harried grind of to-do lists and 9-to-5 demands for you time. Consider it a sacred space, an essential priority, and protect it fiercely. Why? Because you deserve a balanced life. You deserve every opportunity to live fully and achieve your highest potential. Because you deserve to feel good, and FYI, it feels good to move. Because your heart, your life, depends on this. And because those in your world depend on you.
So, bask in the luxury of a walk with friends or take up golf. Dust off your bike and go for evening spins around the neighborhood. It’s not exercise—which is a foreign concept to us from here on out. It is, quite simply, your favorite part of the day.
Perception is everything. And there’s power in our words. If we want to make a change—a real and lasting change—then we must choose our words carefully. Words become attitudes, and attitudes become actions, which are the basic building blocks of lifestyle. Our words can empower us to greater health, or our words can undermine our best intentions. Today becomes tomorrow when our goals involve sacrifice and self-denial. It’s the simple psychology of success.
The same goes for food. Putting yourself or your patients on a “diet” all but guarantees failure. In the age in which we live, the word diet is synonymous with deprivation. No one wants to be deprived, and deprivation isn’t change, nor does it lead to change. It’s a period of restriction, usually with a goal and finish line in sight. Cross the finish line, win the prize, and go back to your old habits.
All diets end. But choosing to indulge in real, satisfying, quality food—fresh, not processed—endures.
So eat dark chocolate and enjoy your glass of red wine. These foods are the poster children of healthy living. Think indulgence, talk up the indulgence. Refuse factory-line fast foods to savor the full flavors of fresh herbs and spices.
In choosing the heart-healthy path, you’re opening up a world of fine cuisine. Mealtime is now something to look forward to and really enjoy. And in today’s market place, there’s nothing stopping you from preparing real food. After all, everything you need for healthy, indulgent dining can arrive nicely packaged on your doorstep—and at the same cost as doing your own shopping.
Sleep and heart health go hand in hand. Research shows that people who don’t get enough sleep are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, enjoying your physical activities will improve both your ability to fall asleep and to experience quality sleep. What’s more, better sleeping habits go a long way in conquering late night eating habits.
The heart-healthy path is wholistic and transformative. It’s not actually about saying no to yourself. It’s about saying yes.
Be inspired and look around. With nationwide attention focused on cardiovascular disease this week, you’ll find an assortment of health and fitness activities in your community offering everything from health information workshops and health screenings to community bike rides and walking events. Get involved—and stay motivated to take care of your heart!
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