Home Local News Eight Tips for a Healthy Heart by Johanna Hicks

Eight Tips for a Healthy Heart by Johanna Hicks



Eight Tips for a Healthy Heart

To continue with the topic on heart health that I started last week, think of your heart as a metronome.  It keeps the beat to your body’s daily functions, pushing blood near and far to nourish every cell and fiber. As a powerhouse organ, you’ll want to keep your heart in tip-top shape, especially those who have diabetes, which can up your risk for heart disease.  Laurence Sperling, professor of medicine in cardiology and director of the Emory Heart Disease Prevention Center in Atlanta, shares eight tips for keeping your heart healthy:

1)      Exercise more. You don’t have to run five miles daily to get a good workout.  Just taking more steps, if you’re counting, can have a benefit.  The muscles are involved in the utilization of glucose, so regular moderate exercise is critical to individuals with diabetes.  It’s important to build some regular activity into your life.

2)       Sit less.  Many of us spend our days in a seated position—whether at work, driving, watching TV, or using a computer. “A recent paper basically said that … if you’re sedentary more than 10 hours a day, that correlates with risk for vascular disease,” says Sperling. You may have to get creative to reduce your sitting time. Maybe going for a stroll around the office every 60 or 90 minutes is an option.

3)      Eat well.  Consume plenty of non-starchy vegetables, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products.  Fruits are beneficial, as well as whole grains.  Just remember that they have carbohydrates, so if you have diabetes, count them as part of your carbohydrate intake for the meal.

4)      Slash Sugar.  Small changes can have big benefits: Cut out sugar-sweetened beverages, foods with added sugars, processed carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, and white potatoes, for instance), and curb your alcohol intake. “Alcohol is fermented sugar, and when your body breaks it down, it becomes sugar,” Sperling says.

5)      Set goals. Losing weight and maintaining weight require different behaviors, but both are important. When losing weight, don’t get fixated on an ideal number.  Focus on attainable goals, and weigh yourself often. To lose weight, you’ll need to either eat 500 fewer calories a day, burn 500 extra calories, or some combination of diet and exercise. To maintain your weight, Sperling recommends eating a healthy breakfast and being active—walking counts—almost every day.

6)      Manage stress. Exercise, meditation, relaxation, music, and art help with stress management and heart health.  Stress releases hormones in our body, and many of these hormones raise our blood sugar.  Stress also impacts the blood vessels, making it harder for them to relax, which increases the risk of heart disease.  Try to discern for yourself some things you can do to diffuse stress in your life.

7)      Sleep better.  Much like stress, poor sleep can raise stress hormones.  One thing that can make getting a good night sleep difficult for people is sleep apnea, a condition many people don’t even realize they have. Symptoms include loud snoring, spells where you stop breathing at night, and excessive sleepiness during the day. Talk with your doctor if you experience any of these.  It could be affecting your glucose control and upping your risk for hypertension and heart disease.

8)      Know your numbers. Keep track of your health stats using a chart or log, Sperling suggests. Check your blood pressure regularly (and blood sugar, if you have diabetes).  “People can give you advice, direction, and information, but actual behavioral changes come through a good partnership between the patient and physician,” says Sperling.


Do Well, Be Well with Diabetes

I’m pleased to announce the 2017 Spring “Do Well, Be Well with Diabetes” series.  Write these dates on your calendar and call our office to sign up!

–          Tuesday, April 4 – topic is “Getting Started: How Food Affects Your Blood Glucose.”  We’ll discuss food labels, food groups, carbohydrate choices and meal planning.

–          Thursday, April 6 – topic is “Are You Eating the Right Number of Carbs? Let’s Find Out!”  Discussion will focus on how to check your blood sugar, traveling with diabetes, and foods with more and less carbohydrates.

–          Tuesday, April 11 – “Beyond Diet: Improving your Blood Glucose with Physical Activity” is the topic.  We’ll discuss the aerobic and resistance exercise, explore proper footwear, and have fun in the process!

–          Thursday, April 13 – “Improving Your Blood Glucose Control with Medication” will be led by experts in the field of diabetes medicines.  We’ll also discuss managing diabetes while eating out.

–          Tuesday, April 18 – This is our “graduation day” as we discuss “Having your Cake and Eating it, Too While Avoiding Complications.”  Discussion will focus on various diabetes complications and how to prevent or delay them.  We’ll also explore what your numbers should be (Hemoglobin A1c, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.)

The series will be offered at 1:30 and 6:00 p.m. each day, so choose the time that works best for you!  All sessions will be held at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office, 1200-B W. Houston Street, in Sulphur Springs.  A one-time fee of $25 (payable at the first session) covers materials, refreshments, recipes, supplementary materials, and door prizes.  Please call 903-885-3443 to sign up.


Closing Thought

Laughing is good exercise.  It’s like jogging on the inside.



Johanna Hicks, B.S., M.Ed

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Family & Consumer Sciences Agent

P.O. Box 518

1200-B W. Houston

Sulphur Springs, TX 75483

Phone: 903-885-3443

Fax: 903-439-4909




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