3 simple swaps for better heart health

Busy days make it hard to put heart health on the front burner. It just feels like you don’t have time for habits that keep the ticker in top shapes — like exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy diet. So maybe you take the stairs when you can, or you park farther away from a store to rack up a few extra steps each day. But what else can you do? Here are three things that might fit in your schedule.

Swap electronic communication for an in-person meeting

It’s fine if texting, emailing, social media or Zoom calls are your primary means of communicating with others. But it’s not okay if those methods leave you feeling lonely or isolated — two problems linked to higher risks for heart disease, heart attack, or stroke, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

To combat loneliness and isolation, try to replace some of your electronic back-and-forths with people with in-person meetings. Maybe you can find room in your schedule for a quick walk, cup of coffee, or brief lunch with a friend or colleague.

“Time spent face-to-face helps connect you to others and may make you feel less isolated,” explains Matthew Lee, a sociologist and research associate at Harvard University’s Human Flourishing Program. “Being physically co-present can help you feel more engaged with others, more valued, and more likely to feel a sense of shared identity — all things that may help ease loneliness. This is why some doctors are starting to engage in ‘social prescribing,’ including suggesting that people get involved in volunteering and other activities that build in-person social relationships.”

A recent study published in the International Journal of Public Health by Lee and a team of Harvard-led researchers suggest that better social connectedness may reduce the risk of being diagnosed with depression or anxiety. Both are associated with heart disease or making existing heart conditions worse.

Swap an unhealthy breakfast for a healthier one

Is your typical breakfast something quick and full of refined (not whole) grains, processed meat, saturated fat, or added sugar? Eating that kind of food regularly may drive up calories, weight, blood sugar, or cholesterol levels — and that’s not good for your heart.

Instead, chose breakfast foods rich in fiber, a type of carbohydrate that either passes through the body undigested (insoluble fiber) or dissolves into a gel (soluble fiber) that coats the gut.

Not only does fiber help digestion, it

  • traps, mop up and lowers bad [LDL] cholesterol that can lead to clogged arteries
  • controls blood sugar and lowers the risk for diabetes, which is strongly associated with heart attacks and strokes
  • may help fight chronic inflammation, which plays a role in clogging arteries and causing heart attacks.

Fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains (oats, barley, quinoa), and many other foods are rich in fiber. Try these fiber-rich breakfast ideas:

  • microwaved oatmeal (heat a 1/2 cup of oatmeal with almost a cup of low-fat milk for about two minutes)
  • a serving of cooked quinoa (cold, if you have it in your fridge) with a dollop of nonfat Greek yogurt, berries, and granola
  • whole-grain cereal with milk (go for cereals with the highest amounts of whole grains and lowest amounts of added sugars)
  • a slice of whole-grain toast with two tablespoons of nut butter (like almond or peanut butter)
  • one or two handfuls of homemade trail mix (use your favorite unsalted nuts, sunflower seeds, and dried fruit such as raisins or apricots).

Swap a few minutes of scroll time for meditation time

If you ever take a break from your busy day to scroll through the news on your phone or computer, chances are you can also find a little time to meditate, which is important for heart health. Research indicates that people who meditate have lower rates of high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and coronary artery disease compared with people who don’t meditate.

What’s the connection? Meditating triggers the body’s relaxation response, a well-studied physiological change that appears to help lower your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, adrenaline levels, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

The great news: it doesn’t take much time to reap the heart-healthy benefits of meditating — just about 10 to 20 minutes per day.

Ideas for quick ways to meditate on a busy day include sitting quietly, closing your eyes, and

  • focusing on your breathing, without judging sounds you hear or thoughts that pop into your head
  • listening to a guided meditation, which uses mental images to help you relax
  • listening to a recording of calming sounds such as waves, a bubbling brook, or gentle rain.

Just try to calm your brain for a few minutes a day. Soon, you may find you’ve become better at meditating and better at practicing other heart-healthy habits, no matter how busy you are.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.

Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.

2 Corinthians 10:15-16 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;

2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Ephesians 1:17-18 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Ephesians 3:16-19 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, read more

Recommended contacts for prayer requests and Bible study

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https://3abn.org/all-streams/3abn.html

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