Everyone knows the significant steps to heart health: eat right, exercise, watch your weight, and get regular check-ups. But even if you’re doing your best to follow those extensive guidelines, don’t have to misstep some of the more minor things that can tax your heart!
In fact, summer can be really hard on your heart if you’re not careful. Watch out for these pitfalls:
-Dehydration. Everyone knows dehydration is bad news, but it can be really stressful for your organs, with damage lasting even after you get some electrolytes back. Make sure you’re drinking water all day long (a reusable bottle is a great way to measure). If you need something flavored, avoid sugary drinks and add some herbs (like mint) or a slice or two of fruit. If you feel falling behind on water consumption, grab the healthiest electrolyte drink you can find (coconut water, for instance).
-Don’t work too hard. In winter, people keel over shoveling snow—hard work, warm clothes, and too much strain can cause problems, mainly if their hearts are already out of shape. Beware, you can make the same mistake in summer, and it won’t even matter if you’re in good shape. Call the games and yard work off during the hottest part of the day (usually afternoon). Even if you’re holding off, dehydration, heat, and physical activity can be dangerous.
-Don’t add carcinogens to your meats & veggies. So many fruits and vegetables are available all summer long, and most can be popped on the grill. Just ensure you’re not taking away the benefits by cooking them too hot and causing burning (and the formation of carcinogens). Leaving corn in the husk, using foil, lower temperatures, or special accessories like planks (that you wet) can act as shields. You can also lower the temperature and cook things more slowly. Keep in mind that heat denatures (breaks down) the nutrients, so stick to warming things up and using a meat thermometer for accuracy/food safety.
-Don’t sit too long when you travel. Especially if you’re hitting the road, make frequent stops to stretch (and even better, shake, dance, or play a quick game). Sitting for too long can cause blood clots and other problems, so you might consider visiting your doctor for a check-up and a clean bill of health before heading out.
-Remember, there are sugar alternatives that aren’t fake. If you’re fighting the heat this summer, skip the all-sugar freezer treats. Freeze some fruit for flavor, nutrients, and the same refreshing chill. You can mash it up into popsicles (watermelon is a great base), freeze it, then blend it into “ice cream” (with a banana base, it will have the same texture) or a smoothie with ice.
Some bonus heart health tips:
-Floss! It’s not just for your teeth. Reducing food, germs, and inflammation in your mouth means less inflammation overall, and less work for your immune system. Getting rid of all the plague means you’ll swallow less of it and keep it from ending up in even more sensitive parts of your body.
-Fight against free radicals with more antioxidants! Of course, this applies year-round, but summer is the time to take advantage of fresh fruits and veggies! Remember that you’re getting free radical exposure from sugar (many drinks marketed for summer, desserts, etc.), the sun, and improper grilling.