Since February is annually recognized as National Heart Month, it only makes sense that the American Nurses Association (ANA) ‘Year of the Healthy Nurse’ campaign highlights cardiovascular health this month. Cardiovascular Disease is impacting almost 86 million Americans and is still considered the leading cause of death in the United States.
Our nation’s nursing professionals are not immune to cardiovascular disease. In 2016, the ANA surveyed more than 10,000 RNs and nursing students and found that one-quarter reported having a diagnosis of hypertension. Other data collected shows that the respondents have an average Body Mass Index (BMI) of 27.6, an indicator of being overweight. Lastly, only half reported that they are meeting an acceptable level of aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise and most are struggling to eat the daily recommendation for whole grain, fruit, and vegetable consumption.
These results are surprising as who among us know better about the benefits of healthy eating, exercise, maintaining proper BMI, than our nursing professionals. All of these healthy habits are critical in the defense against cardiovascular disease, but we still struggle to achieve them on a regular basis. Let’s face it, as a nurse or other healthcare professional; you know the risks and also the cure. The real question is finding the time to start taking the proper steps toward preventing cardiovascular disease. Below, are a few reminders of how you can get started.
- Make great decisions. First and foremost, is to make better decisions about what you are eating, drinking, and doing. Decide to pack a healthy lunch, limit alcohol consumption, try to quit smoking, and find a way to squeeze in a little exercise.
- Start with your fuel. Choosing to eat healthier is something all of us can do. There are endless resources for finding easy nutrition tips and healthy recipes, check out the American Heart Association (AHA) Healthy Eating page for help.
- Find ways to maintain your body. Starting an exercise plan doesn’t have to be as difficult as we often make it. You can start out by walking before work, after work or by starting a lunchtime walking club. You can also fit in some quick exercises during your shift as we’ve outlined here.
- Take control of your stress. We know the damage that long-term stress can do to our heart and our body. Unfortunately, a totally stress-free life is probably not possible (unless you win the lottery and move to a secluded tropical island). Instead, go on the offensive against stress and work on dealing with it better. The AHA has several online resources on how you can recognize stressors and manage the effect that they have on your life.
Making difficult lifestyle decisions are never easy, but they all have one thing in common. They start with the recognition that there is a decision to be made. Take this simple, healthy heart checklist to see how you are doing to maintain a healthy heart. If you are already practicing healthy heart habits, that is great news. However, if you have a family member or a co-worker who isn’t making those healthy choices, make a commitment to speak with them or reach out and help them integrate a few small steps to get started on the right path toward a healthier heart.
Help your fellow healthcare professionals and share your heart healthy tips in the comment section below. You can also stop by our Facebook page and join the conversation.