Many nurses spend much of their time worrying about the wellness of others and forget to monitor their own personal health. American Heart Month – February – is the perfect time to start paying attention to your personal health and take proactive steps to decrease your chances of developing heart disease.
The American Heart Association reports that every year in the United States, 715,000 Americans have a heart attack, and 600,000 people die from heart disease. These alarming rates account for 1 out of every 4 deaths, making heart disease the leading cause of death for both men and women.1
The organization offers the following heart-healthy tips for weight, stress and nutrition management.
1. Skip the salt. A high-sodium diet can increase your risk for heart disease. Unfortunately for nurses on the go, many convenient snacks or small meals are packed with sodium. Even soup, which is widely considered a healthy meal option, can carry more than half the recommended daily amount of sodium in one serving.Dried fruits and nuts are a quick and easy snack that will fill you up without filling your diet with sodium. If you’re grabbing a can of soup or a snack at the grocery store, look for the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark for smarter choices. For more snack ideas, check out our blog post on 8 Power Snacks for Nurses or this infographic on Healthy Snacks for Work.
2. Find ways to manage stress. It’s not uncommon for nurses to work 12-hour shifts in a high-stress environment with few, short breaks. To maintain heart health on a limited schedule, incorporate simple stress management techniques into your routine. The American Heart Association offers the following quick way to de-stress:
- Sit in a comfortable position with your feet on the floor and your hands in your lap or lie down. Close your eyes.
- Picture yourself in a peaceful place. Hold this scene in your mind.
- Inhale and exhale. Focus on breathing slowly and deeply for 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Get moving! It can be hard for nurses to imagine adding the daunting task of exercise to a day they’re already spending primarily on their feet. Luckily, there are many ways to incorporate exercise into daily activities. If you can’t schedule 30 minutes at the gym on a given day, try these tips to get your heart rate up and your blood flowing during a busy day:
- Take the stairs, not the elevator.
- Park further away and walk briskly to work.
- Walk down the hall to talk to someone rather than using the phone.
- Take a phone call while walking, rather than at the desk.
This month, take time to incorporate heart-healthy habits into your current lifestyle. Improving your personal health now is the first step toward providing the best possible care for your patients in the future.
For more tips and resources on preventing heart disease, visit aha.org.
(1) Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Borden WB, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2013 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2013;127(1):e6-e245.
By Jennifer Bouchard
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