3 Ways to show your heart some love for American Heart Month
February is American Heart Month, and there’s no better time to give your heart a little extra attention. It’s time for comfort, laughter, and music – things your heart thrives on. Now, what if getting a good start on heart health was a matter of eating a bowl of tasty food, having a good laugh, and dancing?
You’ve seen many lists of key steps for improving cardiovascular health, which advise you to know the risk factors for heart disease, manage your weight, eat heart-healthy foods, and stay active. This is important advice, which is why it’s widely publicized.
But the list I’m sharing with you today is special, and a little different.
It’s special because as caregiver families, you deserve some enjoyment in doing good things for your heart. Physical health and emotional well-being go hand in hand, and there are some simple ways to show your heart some love.
These 3 steps are easy, require no doctor’s appointments or tests, and don’t require major changes to your daily routine. None of them takes much time.
They’re also a lot of fun. Maybe you’ll want to make a habit of them. The idea is to find comfort and joy in your day and love your heart while you do it.
Your heart does so much for you. Give it some love.
Make a bowl of oatmeal
Oatmeal is a classic comfort food that offers hearty, delicious love for your wonderful heart. Here’s why it’s the perfect choice for a quick cold-weather meal. (Information drawn from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health)
Maybe most importantly, oatmeal tastes good in a comforting way. Take your time and cook old-fashioned rolled or steel-cut oats for the best flavor and texture. By itself, oatmeal is fiber-rich, helps reduce cholesterol absorption, and may improve insulin sensitivity. To jazz up your bowl, here are a few extras that only add to oatmeal’s natural health benefits.
- A few drops of vanilla make your dish fragrant and produce the sensation of mild sweetness without refined sugar.
- A healthy sprinkle of ground cinnamon is not only warmly aromatic, it also contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and it may help to lower blood sugar.
- A sliced banana adds potassium and can aid digestion.
- A handful of blueberries offers Vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.
- Raisins are a good source of iron and fiber.
- A few tablespoons of chopped walnuts add crunch and provide omega-3 fat, which is helpful in reducing heart disease risk.
- A dollop of plain Greek yogurt provides protein, bone-strengthening calcium, iodine, and healthy bacteria for your digestive tract.
Oatmeal is satisfying during this cold weather, warm and filling. It helps create a sense of coziness. The Danish culture has a term for this relaxing feeling – hygge. A hygge lifestyle offers emotional warmth and a calming environment that promotes a feeling of safety. All of this from a humble bowl of oatmeal? It’s worth a try.
Oatmeal is familiar. For many of us, it’s a taste reminiscent of childhood. My mom ate a bowl of oatmeal every day for as long as I can remember. Although it wasn’t my favorite early on (Rice Krispies and Cheerios were my thing), I eventually grew to love it. It’s reassuring, like being in the kitchen of my youth, and it reminds me of my mom. That’s powerful stuff, a physical and emotional boost for the heart.
Have a good laugh
What if your doctor prescribed a daily dose of laughter? There would be good reason, because the benefits of exercising your sense of humor are real, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If something tickles your funny bone, your mood brightens and your body reacts. When you laugh out loud you take in an oxygen-rich breath and invigorate your heart and lungs. A good hard laugh can momentarily cause your heart rate and blood pressure to rise a bit and then lower, which leaves you feeling more relaxed.
Laughing more can boost your immune system over time. Your body offers up neuropeptides when you’re in a good mood, and these little proteins can help tackle stress. Laughter may also promote your body’s release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers.
How about those times together with family or friends when you all share a good laugh? What a wonderful feeling of being connected and loved. When you have a chance to reminisce, often the memories of a funny incident are even funnier in the retelling. Laughter’s magic is emotionally so powerful.
Sample some of these videos and podcasts. They’re guaranteed to amuse. Search online for them by name - you’ll find a treasure trove by visiting YouTube.
- For classic Saturday Night Live fans, here is Emily Litella (the gifted comedienne Gilda Radner) with her hilarious editorial commentary.
- Are you an NPR listener? Over the years, Saturdays have included plenty of entertaining programs on our local Seattle affiliate, KUOW. Remember the fictional town of Lake Wobegon in Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion?” And you may have tuned in to “Car Talk” on Saturday mornings - Boston mechanics Tom and Ray amused us with their comic exchanges about callers’ car problems for 35 years, and many of those shows are available as podcasts. Archival copies of these wonderful programs can be found online.
- KUOW currently airs the laugh-out-loud news radio show “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” Saturdays from 10-11am. Celebrity guests poke fun at the week’s headlines as call-in guests play along. We’ve absorbed lots of tough news over the past year, and this weekly show offers an opportunity to find humor in it.
Cleverly written to put a witty spin on our weariness with COVID lockdown, here is the Marsh Family from Faversham, England with a parody on Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 recording, Total Eclipse of the Heart.
Dance, dance dance
Dance with a partner, with your grandchildren, or on your own. Use your best footwork or dance as you stay seated. There’s something about moving to the music, even if you have limited mobility, that’s bound to make you feel good.
Dancing is good for your cardiovascular health, your balance, and your emotional well-being. It just feels good. However you do it, it’s one more way to show your heart some love.
This is no time to worry about form. How gracefully you move isn’t as important as just feeling the rhythm and letting the music lift your spirits. Let go, enjoy yourself, and as they say, dance like nobody’s watching. The best tunes have a way of encouraging toe-tapping, head-bobbing, shoulder-swaying fun.
If you need some inspiration, get in the mood by watching this montage of delightful, classic movie clips set to Uptown Funk (Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson). I guarantee the music will stir the rhythm in your body. This song was on the playlist at my son’s wedding 2 years ago and had nearly everyone on their feet.
Here’s more inspiration. Flash mobs are marvelous fun. Check out this version of Electric Light Orchestra’s All Over the World. It’s pure joy.
Courtesy of the Playing for Change Foundation, which promotes music education for children around the world, here’s a group collaboration of Kool & the Gang’s Celebration. Watch these beautiful children perform and you’ll feel like dancing.
For a guided chair dance, check out this routine to the music of Jimmy Cliff’s I Can See Clearly Now with yoga therapist Sherry Zak Morris. Follow along and enjoy.
For more danceable tunes to stir the rhythm in your soul, visit YouTube for music to suit all tastes and styles. Pull up some old favorites. Your heart will appreciate it.
In honor of American Heart Month, we extend sincere thanks to caregivers, seniors, and families. Learn more about how in-home care services can make a difference in your years of healthy life.
“If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.” Maya Angelou
Katie Wright writes about aging and senior wellness from Bellingham, WA. You can read more about her here.
If you or a loved one you know are looking for additional support during this time and are interested in scheduling a free in-home assessment, please contact SeaCare In-Home Care Services today! A SeaCare family member is standing by. 425-559-4339.