February is Healthy Heart Month!

Let’s celebrate, not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day of the year, and make sure that we are doing everything we can to focus on having a healthy heart. It is wonderful to see increased attention given to eating healthily, exercising prudently and reducing stress.

Our Baby Boomer generation has embraced living better and living longer by following some proven simple steps towards optimizing their health, fitness and fun. This week’s column highlights and affirms some of the fairly well-known strategies to keep fit and have a healthy heart, so some content might just serve as a reminder to some.

Other parts of the article might come as “news you can use” in order to strategize a game plan that will serve you well for a lifetime.

A healthy heart discussion must always begin with food. Particularly, with respect to optimizing your own lean/body fat ratio. The BMI is a fairly good measure of your best body weight for most people. However, if you are very muscular or “big-boned” it may read you as being overweight.

A better measure is the body fat percentage test, which you can get taken at your local health club by a qualified personal trainer.

The difference is that the percent body fat calculation tells you what your body is made of — muscle or fat; whereas the BMI just tells you the ratio of your weight to your height and does nothing to differentiate the quality of your body tissue.

To achieve your best lean/body fat ratio you must take in calories that match your activity level, and it is prudent to take in the best quality and nourishing foods that you can for your caloric budget. Most people nowadays are familiar with the terms saturated fats, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats. But just as a reminder, saturated fats are mostly from animal sources such as pork, beef and dairy, and they are hard fats which clog up your arteries.

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are from plant sources mostly, such as seeds, olives, corn, soy, nuts and also fish. These fats (oils) are very healthy to consume because not only do they not clog your arteries leading to heart disease and stroke, they actually help clean your arteries out and reduce plaque.

Trans fats are manufactured from healthy oils that food processers SATURATE with hydrogen ions thus TRANSforming healthy oils to saturated fats.

Because these fats are unnaturally occurring for the most part they are even more unhealthy for you to consume than naturally occurring saturated fats. They also are in many cases in “foods” that are high in sugar and artificial colors and flavors — basically junk food.

Sugar is another factor that a heart smart person considers. Diabetes is rampant in our country and the link between sugar, diabetes and heart disease is unequivocal. Sugar is also a culprit in association with cancer, and inflammatory processes and of course obesity.

Consumption of natural fruit sugar is one thing, white sugar in all its forms is quite something else.

Exercise for the Boomer generation is important for heart health and also our sweethearts. We want to look good, as well as feel good and be fit.

The World Health Organization notes that for those over the age of 60, aerobic exercise of at least 30 minutes should be carried out every day, and resistance exercise should be at least two to three times a week. Aerobic work such as swimming, running, walking, biking, using a treadmill or elliptical trainer will lower your bad cholesterol (LDL), whereas weight training or other types of resistance training using bands or medicine balls will raise your good cholesterol (HDL).

These are very good reasons to do both types of training consistently. In addition, although it may not be that important for your heart, balance work and flexibility work should be included in your weekly regime, because it is good for your frame and helps prevent falls.

The last part of looking out for your ticker is stress reduction. Your outlook is primary in taking good care of you. Practice meditation, creative visualization, yoga, tai chi, or other stress reduction modalities, if they appeal to you.

Remember at least to take several long, deep, cleansing breaths throughout the day. We all forget to breathe deep and stretch. Note to self — even the dog and the cat remember to do this. It is no coincidence that many ancient yoga poses are fashioned and named after animal activities. Take long walks or take up a hobby that you find relaxing and enjoyable.

Of uppermost importance is to hang out with positive, happy like-minded individuals. If you are surrounded by “Downers” it is hard to keep up yourself. To develop a passion in life and pursue it, is good for your heart and your psyche. It puts life in your years and years in your life. With every good wish for your Happy Heart Month, Dr. Jane.

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Dr. Jane Riley, EdD., is a certified personal fitness trainer, nutritional adviser and behavior change specialist. She can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, 212-8119 cell/text and www.janerileyfitness.com

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