This past weekend, I once again had the privilege of speaking at the Alpha Phi Foundation Red Dress Gala to raise awareness of women’s heart health. I was on a panel with Dr. Lee McKinley, a pulmonary critical care specialist who confronts severe heart disease on a daily basis. He gave us some harsh facts about heart disease. It is the number one killer of women each year in the United States.
The following factors contribute to this: obesity, sedentary lifestyle, fatty diet, smoking and hypertension. Only 3% of Americans adhere to ALL four of the following healthy habits which have been found to prevent heart disease: 150 minutes of exercise per week; 5 fruits and vegetables per day; normal weight; no smoking.
While I acknowledge that it is important to hear these hard facts, as a psychiatrist, I opt for a more light hearted approach to motivate people to adopt healthy habits. So, here is a fun filled day of cardiac health.
Upon waking up, while you’re still in bed, take a few cleansing breaths. Deep breathing lowers blood pressure. Try a breath now: breathe in slowly, into your stomach, hold and then slowly let your breath out. Do this a few times.
Laughter really is the best medicine. A 2006 study in Maryland showed that laughing 15 minutes a day dilates your vessels 22 percent. This lowers your blood pressure, and putts less strain on your heart.
Now it’s time to crank up your favorite dance song, or two. Something with a beat, and start dancing. Dancing improves heart health. Listening to rhythmic music 30 minutes a day lowers blood pressure and heart rate. I recommend Grenade by Bruno Mars. Played 10 times in a row.
When you get to work, hug your boss.
A study in North Carolina showed that hugs reduce heart disease, and women benefit more than men. And it doesn’t matter if the person is close to you or a casual acquaintance. You still get the benefit. So hug someone every day, several times a day.
If you have to sit for your job, get up and walk around at least once an hour. I take a big container of water and take a huge drink right when I get to work. An hour later, I go to a bathroom far away from the clinic. Fewer people use it, which means fewer germs. And, more movement.
While you’re in the bathroom, think about your beautiful body. This beautiful body that brought you here today. Women, we are COMPLICATED! We don’t have typical symptoms of heart attacks. If you feel anything funny from your neck to your pelvis, call your doctor.
Walk during lunch. It doesn’t have to be a long walk. Walking 10 minutes a day twice a day every day significantly reduces heart disease.
Middle of the afternoon: time for some more cleansing breaths. Check out your mood. Are you stressed out? Taking those deep breaths will relax you.
If you find you have trouble relaxing, or that your mood is depressed, think about getting help. Untreated depression carries a high risk of a heart attack, especially for women. You have to be happy: you heart depends on it.
After work, treat yourself to some more dancing while you change out of your work clothes. You earned it!
Then, it’s time for a glass of red wine. Studies have shown that a daily glass of red wine is good for your heart.
After dinner, treat yourself to some dark chocolate for dessert. Again, you’re doing this for your heart. Chocolate with 65% cacao is good for your heart.
Dr. Micaela Wexler provides child, adolescent and adult pscyhiatric services in Kansas City.
Please visit Wexler Family Psychiatry to schedule an appointment.
Appointment information for Dr. Wexler: wexlerpsych.com
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