Expert Blogs | Heart Health
Self-Care -- It's About More Than a Mani/Pedi
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Lately I ‘ve been thinking a lot about love … self-love. It’s crucial to take care of yourself, but self-care isn’t just about getting that mani/pedi (although I do love a great mani/pedi). Self-care is about taking care of yourself mentally and physically … about showing yourself the utmost amount of unconditional love. One of the best ways to show yourself love is to take precautionary measures to make sure you live a healthy, long life.

Prioritizing Health And Vitality Is No Longer A Luxury. It’s A Necessity.

Wellness used to mean saunas and spas, baths and candles, but today, wellness is essential. Preserve it, or actively move toward it.

There are a few things to keep in mind when working towards wellness:

  • Eat well.
  • Exercise.
  • Manage your stress.
  • Live a life of purpose.
  • Make good decisions as an investment in your health future.

Eat well

You can look frankly at where you are right now, and if you really think about it, you will probably realize that you know what you are doing right and you know what you are doing wrong. Are you eating too much sugar, or too much fat, or too much junk food, or just too much in general?  You know where your problem areas are. You know where you are, so start there. Eat a little less of those things you know you shouldn’t eat. Move a little more. Work on some stress reduction. “You do you,” but do it a little bit better today than you did yesterday. That’s how you start.

We all achieve success in different ways. The one commonality is that changing your life requires changing your thoughts. If you have the preconceived notion that you “can’t do it,” then chances are that any significant changes won’t stick. If you strive for a vision that’s too much, too big, too great, or with an end so far out of sight from where you are right now that you can’t even imagine it, success can seem unreachable, and probably will be. So pull your goal back into sight. Five pounds at a time, five minutes of exercise at a time, five minutes of deep breathing or meditation at a time. And then you grow from there. The further down the path you get, the easier it is to make bigger and loftier goals.

An easy place to start with eating well is by adding more vegetables to your diet.

Exercise

I used to not be into exercising. Then a few years back I decided to start exercising on my lunch breaks. I was surprisingly energized. I could breathe more easily. I was able to think clearly, my thoughts no longer a jumble going in every direction. Even my perspective on life shifted. I felt empowered rather than a victim. I felt more in control, and just overall better. I started smiling, and as one of my friends put it, “Hey! You got your sexy back.” You can start slow by going for a short walk each day.

Manage your stress

Pay attention to the impact of stress on your life, your heart and your mind -- and do something about it, to make it better and easier to manage. I’ve seen the stress response in action many times over the years. I typically describe it for my patients as the college student who crams for tests and then, when they’re over, gets a bad cold. So let’s talk about stress management, rest and recovery.

We’ve known for decades that there’s a critical connection between the mind and the body -- and especially between the mind and the heart. We also know how important the role of our emotions play in heart health and heart disease.

It’s easy for doctors to say, “Manage your stress,” and that is part of the solution, but I believe there’s more to it than that. We can try to reduce stress by reducing obligations or plowing through, but we also need to focus on how well we can recover, both emotionally and physically, from the surges of stress hormones that happen so frequently.

For example, most people know that the body recovers from the stresses of the day during sleep. Sleep is about more than just your body needing rest. It’s about recovery and restoration. Cellular rejuvenation doesn’t happen during peak exercise or during times of stress. It happens during the phases of deepest recovery.

Live a Life With Purpose

Studies have shown that if you live life with passion and with purpose, you’re less likely to suffer from health issues and premature death. In fact, several studies have examined how having a life of purpose influences health and longevity. Giving “purpose” a point score, one study showed a significant reduction in death, heart disease, and stroke during the study, from 12-27%, even with a 1 point increase in purpose-grade.

Victor J. Strecher, the professor and director for innovation and social entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan School of Public Health writes in his book, Life on Purpose, that purpose can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, cut your risk of Alzheimer’s by more than half, improve sleep, decrease inflammation, and repair your DNA to slow aging. He concludes that living life with a purpose is the key to happiness, vitality, and health.

This isn’t always easy. What’s easy is to become overwhelmed with changes that seem negative, whether they’re changes in your own body, or the volatile changes that seem to occur constantly in the world.

Take some quiet time to reflect on your past year, the past 5 years, the past 10 years, and ask yourself if you are living your life with purpose and with passion. If the answer is “no,” then I challenge you to begin steering your own life with your heart. Find your purpose, and let it guide you. Let it be the reason you get up in the morning. Let it be the fuel to power your self-care. Let it charge your proverbial batteries. This is what I mean when I talk so often in my book, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart Healthy Life, about “living from the heart.”

If you have already found your purpose and you are living it, then you know what it means to “live from the heart,” but if you haven’t, let this be a new goal.

What do you live for?

What drives you?

What fills your soul?

There’s nothing that will make you live your life with more health, more vigor, more inspiration, and more heart than waking up each and every day looking forward to doing what you love.

Make Good Decisions as an Investment in Your Health Future.

Check in with yourself regularly and don’t skip your health checkups with your doctor. If you take medications, make sure you take them properly and consistently. This coming year, get your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugars, and body mass index checked. Ruthlessly evaluate your lifestyle choices such as alcohol consumption, smoking and sleep.

Love yourself enough to commit to a lifetime of caring for your mind and your body.

 

Photo Credit: seksan Mongkhonkhamsao / Moment via Getty Images

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Suzanne Steinbaum, DO

Suzanne Steinbaum, DO

Board-certified cardiologist

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum is a leader in preventive cardiology, now in private practice in New York. She launched heart prevention programs at Mt. Sinai Heart, Northwell Lenox Hill and Beth Israel. She is the CEO/Founder of Heart Tech Health, a technology-based prevention model. She published Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart Healthy Life and has been an advocate for women's health for two decades appearing on The Doctors, Oz, The Today Show and Good Morning America. She now is an advisor and spokesperson for American Heart Association, Go Red For Women and Peloton.

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