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Show your heart some love
Karissa Winkel
Karissa Winkel

Recently, I had a friend voice her opinion about Valentine’s Day. She challenged the idea of showering loved ones with appreciation on a single day of the year. Instead, she believes that a little TLC should be shown daily. While grand, romantic gestures are not for everyone, I think we can all agree that Valentine’s Day reminds us of the importance of showing loved ones we care about them year-round.

The same can be true for our heart health, and it’s fitting that February is American Heart Month. We take this time to focus on bringing awareness to heart health and preventing cardiovascular disease. Since heart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide and more than a third of Kansans have high blood pressure, it is important to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle. Take action by showing your heart some love this February and the remainder of the year by:

Getting enough quality sleep. Lack of sleep increases the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

• Aim for 7-9 hours each night

• Get into a routine by going to bed and waking at the same time each day

• Avoid caffeine after 12 p.m.

• Talk to your healthcare provider about supplementing with magnesium which has proven to be a natural sleep aid and supports healthy blood pressure

Maintain a healthy weight. A healthy body composition can prevent and control many diseases.

• Reach for healthy snacks like fruit, nuts, or yogurt instead of sugary, packaged foods

• Stay hydrated with water as your drink of choice

• Aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise per week

Stop Smoking. Any amount of smoking or vaping damages your heart and vessels.

• Select a quit date and write yourself a contract that outlines your plan for quitting

• Talk with your healthcare provider about programs and products that can help

• Visit to enroll in free coaching and quit medications

Control Cholesterol. High cholesterol levels can cause buildup of plaque in veins and arteries increasing your risk of heart disease.

• Eat more unsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. Reduce foods high in saturated fats such as cheese and red meat.

• Try the free Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes Program from the NIH which combines diet, physical activity, and weight management to help lower high blood cholesterol and improve heart health.

• Limit alcohol consumption.

Manage Stress. Chronic stress narrows blood vessels and increases blood pressure.

• Schedule time each week to do hobbies you enjoy such as crafting, hiking, or reading

• Take a yoga class to lower stress and improve flexibility and relaxation

• Try prayer or mindfulness meditation to reduce stressful thoughts and emotions

Other ways to care for your heart include controlling blood pressure, managing blood sugar, increasing physical activity, and eating more whole foods. Including all these strategies in your lifestyle may be overwhelming, but I challenge you to try to do one heart-healthy habit each day. Finding support from loved ones can also be encouraging. Family and friends can keep you accountable on your health journey and help you show your heart some love.

Karissa Winkel is the family and community wellness agent with K-State Research and Extension – Cottonwood District. Contact her at 620-793-1910