Making a connection between Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated to matters of the heart, and your heart health is not much of a stretch.
But it may surprise you to learn that heart health is directly related to your overall physical health starting with the nervous system. Caring for your heart’s well-being is center-stage here at AFWC. Beyond its symbolic significance, your heart is a remarkable organ that beats tirelessly, pumping blood and nutrients throughout the body. This rhythm, however, is not solely a result of mechanical functions. It is part of your entire body, beginning with the nervous system.
Your emotions play a significant role in heart wellness. Feelings of love, joy and contentment can positively influence heart health by promoting relaxation and reducing stress. Conversely, anxiety, negative emotions and chronic stress place a strain on the heart, increasing the risk of cardiovascular issues.
Stress hormones, such as cortisol, contribute to high blood pressure, inflammation and the accumulation of plaque in the arteries. These factors elevate the risk of hypertension, heart disease and even heart attacks. What can you do to protect your heart health? How can you be proactive? We have a few suggestions to help nurture your heart:
Prioritize quality sleep to allow your body—and your heart–to recharge and rejuvenate. Consider it the reboot from your day’s activities and stressors. You know what to do (consistent sleep/wake times, avoid caffeine and alcohol, a dark room at a cool temperature) but how can you consistently set yourself up for restorative sleep? Make it a priority.
Consistent participation in exercise strengthens the heart while also helping improve overall cardiovascular health—and your mood. How do you get that into your schedule—regularly? Simple things like parking farther from your workplace or favorite restaurant forces in a bit of walking. Take the stairs, walk your kids to school, switch to a stand-up desk. There are many ways to add active movement to your day in addition to your intentional workout program.
What you eat really, REALLY matters. Lots of leafy greens, appropriate daily water (half of your body weight in ounces,) minimizing alcohol, and even reducing coffee intake are all things you already know. What else are you consuming that might detract from your heart health? Things that cause stress and anxiousness like watching news reports, exposure to negativity in your social or professional circles, second-hand smoke . . . find ways to intentionally reduce the exposure to negative, upsetting or unhealthful things in your personal space.
Take control of your thoughts and stress levels by incorporating meditation, deep breathing, stretches, or wellness-focused podcasts into your daily routines. Even adding elements of nature to your environment helps to reduce stress and increase mindfulness. Walk in the grass barefoot or eat lunch in the park. Watch your kids’ baseball games from a blanket on the grass rather than those bleacher seats with angry wanna-be coaches.
Small changes, made consistently, can add up to major improvements in your overall health. This Valentine’s Day, extend your love and care to your own physical heart by nurturing its connection with your nervous system. When you foster positive emotions and manage stress, you honor your heart not just symbolically, but for its vital role in sustaining your well-being. Then share the love with those around you.