I loved Megan Griffith-Greene’s ‘dawn to dusk’ daily planner piece in Chatelaine recently listing small ways during your average day that you can improve your heart health – many of which I’ve already written about here. Hour by hour, Megan shows you how these small ways can all add up:
7 a.m. - BRUSH YOUR TEETH: Good oral hygiene is not only good for your social health – gum disease increases your chances of heart disease. Researchers think that when bacteria run amok in your mouth, they can travel through the body and cause inflammation elsewhere too. See also: Flossing, Brushing and Heart Disease
8 a.m. – EAT YOUR BREAKFAST: Start the day off properly with some fibre-rich oatmeal topped with antioxidant-packed blueberries, both of which are associated with heart health. See also: Why A Good Breakfast is Good For Your Brain – And Your Heart
9 a.m. - POP A PILL: Take a capsule of fish oil for its heart-smart omega-3s, but skip the daily low-dose Aspirin unless you are over age 65. It’s not advised for healthy premenopausal women and can increase your risk of internal bleeding. See also: Should Women Take A Daily Low-Dose Aspirin to Prevent Heart Attack?
10 a.m. – TAKE THE STAIRS: Squeeze bursts of exercise into your daily routine and skip the elevator. See also: What Prevents Heart Disease “Better Than Any Drug”?
11 a.m. – BREATHE DEEP: Decrease stress and improve blood flow by trying this at your desk – sit up staight, close your eyes, take several deep breaths and try to clear your mind. See also: Got A Minute? Try This Mini-Relaxation Exercise For Your Heart Health
Noon - GO VEGETARIAN FOR LUNCH: Eating more veggies and less meat lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease. Go for colour: dark greens and bright oranges pack the most punch. Throw in some beans or legumes (loaded with fibre) and toss your salad with vinaigrette that includes olive oil (a healthy fat). See also: Mediterranean Diet: It’s All Greek To Me
1 p.m. - GO FOR A WALK: Get the heck outside. Every chance you get to walk in the fresh air helps you de-stress, and the sunshine will boost your vitamin D. See also: Walk Often, Walk Far
2 p.m. - GRAB a JAVA: Good news: your coffee fix may actually be good for your heart according to the Harvard School of Public Health. See also: Love Your Morning Coffee, Ladies? The More You Drink, The Lower Your Risk of Stroke
3 p.m. - EAT SOME POPCORN: It’s a whole grain, and upping your consumption of whole grains is great for your heart. Just skip the butter and salt. For more on healthy bag-it-yourself microwave popcorn, see: Microwave Popcorn: (Still) Bad For You.
4 p.m. - SAVOUR SOME DARK CHOCOLATE: The delectable treat has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation. See also: Is Chocolate Good for Women’s Heart Health?
5 p.m. - HIT THE GYM: Getting your heart rate up will do more than keep your arteries in shape. It will also lower stress levels, a double threat. See also: Exercise vs. the Plumber’s Pipe Theory of Heart Disease
6 p.m. – GRILL SOME FISH: The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada says that the best sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fats are cold-water fish like salmon, sardines and rainbow trout. Eat them at least twice a week. See also: How Eating Fish Helps Your Heart
7 p.m. - ROCK OUT: According to researchers at the University of Maryland, listening to music that you love is good for your heart, helping to dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow. Music that causes stress has the opposite effect.
8 p.m. - WATCH A SITCOM: Being a couch potato isn’t going to help your heart, but laughing will. It’s an excellent stress reliever and improves blood flow. (Ed. note: I recommend Modern Family). See also: Women Laugh Their Way To Better Heart Health
9 p.m. – STRIKE A POSE: Practices like yoga or tai chi don’t just reduce stress. In a Yale University study, people who practised yoga three times a week significantly reduced their blood pressure, heart rate and BMI after only six weeks. Similarly, research found that tai chi significantly boosted exercise capacity, lowered blood pressure, and improved levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, and C-reactive protein in people at high risk for heart disease. See also: Tai Chi for Heart Health
10 p.m. – GET IT ON: The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada recommends exercise that hits three areas: strength, flexibility and endurance. And we can’t think of a more fun way to give your heart – and your sweetheart – a workout! Read: The Topic That Doctors Don’t Want to Talk About With Female Heart Patients
See also: 10 Baby Steps To Better Heart Health
Do you have your own favourite small improvement for heart health that you’ve incorporated into your own daily planner?