Ask Dr. Dylan: Self care during Heart Health Month

Dr. Dylan’s tips for Heart Month

Be more specific about our self-care by doing some small steps to boost your heart health.

In honor of National Heart Health Month and February, Dr. Dylan Wyatt, an Emergency Medicine Physician at St. Luke’s, suggests you show some love for your heart.

Dr. Dylan: With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I encourage everyone to commit towards doing more self-care.  It’s easy to show care for others in our lives but often can be hard to take the time that we need to take care of ourselves.  

Specifically, to go along with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute we are going to talk about some self-care tips for heart health today. I encourage everyone to look at the self-care tips for heart health put out by the NIH:  Print it off, put it on your Fridge and follow the tips for the rest of the month of February and beyond.

Why is heart health so important?

Remember that the heart effects everything we do since it pumps blood to our organs.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., but much of it is preventable by making lifestyle changes.  Remembers always start small, letting changes become habits before moving onto bigger goals and improvements.  They may seem like small things but over time they can add up to a significant reduction in your risk for heart attack and stroke.

What are some of these heart healthy habits?

Many of the parts of this heart-centered self-care routine are exactly the kind of advice most of our viewers would expect from any Doctor.  For instance, getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, reducing unhealthy fat and sodium intake, sleeping 7-8 hours a night, and snacking on fruits and vegetables rather than chips and other carbs whenever hungry.  Even though we constantly hear them, we don’t do them often enough and many Americans still fall into old bad habits that compound to lead to serious health issues over time.  

How can we change this?

Like I said before: start small.  Begin by learning some new recipes to cook that use less red meat and more vegetables.  Go for a 30 minute walk at the mall with a friend you have not talked to in a while.  Make that doctor’s appointment you been putting off.  These things may seem small but they can spring board us into more regular behaviors creating a positive feedback loop and more positive habits over time.

What if you have tried this before but it hasn’t worked?

You may have tried to do this before and failed – that’s okay.  It takes many attempts for most people to change their habits. The most frequent obstacles are a lack of confidence that someone can change, feeling of hopelessness or depression, or feeling overwhelmed by the amount of change that needs to occur.  I want everyone to know that they absolutely can change their lives and health, it will take time and will not always be easy but it absolutely can be done by breaking it down in this small steps.  This also helps us from feeling overwhelmed by multiple issues or medical problems that can be occurring at once.  Break them into small daily and weekly tasks that you can successfully complete.  Finally, be open with your friends and loved ones if you are feeling depressed or need help.  Often times making these changes can also improve mood and mental well-being but can be very hard to start doing so if one is already depressed. Work with your psychiatric team, take your medications and continue to remember things will get better.