By Melissa Kaufman

With Valentine’s Day celebrated during February, hearts are a common symbol and a recurrent appearance. But in addition to being the month of love, each February marks the arrival of American Heart Month. This annual commemoration raises awareness for the number one killer in America: heart disease, as noted by the American Heart Association (AHA). According to heart.org, 2021 marks the 57th annual consecutive American Heart Month. Former president Lyndon B. Johnson, a heart-attack survivor himself, officially proclaimed the annual event in 1964. In fact, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, approximately, 15,334 people within the U.S. have coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease is the most common form of heart disease. It is notable to mention that specifically within our areas, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, approximately 420,000 & 667,000 residents, respectively, are afflicted.

Though it is always imperative to play close attention to heart health, it’s become even more important during the pandemic. Recent research on heart.org details COVID’s detrimental impact on both the heart and vascular system. In addition, heart.org states that many have either delayed or avoided visiting the hospital for heart attacks and strokes. This has prompted the AHA to enact the “Don’t Die of Doubt” campaign, to remind people of the importance of visiting hospitals for heart attack, stroke, and other symptoms. With many closures and restrictions in place since last year due to the pandemic, many have also turned to unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, such as lack of exercise, poor eating habits, increased alcohol consumption and higher than usual stress levels.

Many forms of heart disease are preventable and manageable by adopting heart-healthy habits and behaviors. Read on for more specific ways to protect and maintain a healthy heart and lifestyle and how many local Happening List winners & local favorites can offer their aid. Also be sure to cast your vote for this year’s Happening List winners HERE.

Heart Healthy Tips:

Maintain Cholesterol, Blood Pressure & Blood Sugar Levels:

(per webmd.com)

All three levels are imperative and essential to maintaining a healthy heart. Through eating a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, nuts and limiting red meats and sugary beverages and foods, regular exercise & avoiding smoking, and having regular checks at the doctor, these levels can be maintained.  Aim for less than 200mg total cholesterol levels. High blood pressure can damage the heart, lungs, kidneys, arteries, and other organs and therefore, it is essential to keep levels ideally below 120/80 & fasting blood sugar levels below 100mg.

If at risk, on medications to treat any of the above, or experiencing symptoms, consider setting up a physical exam to devise a treatment plan and/or an evaluation for nutrition counseling to complement other lifestyle changes.

Local Suggestions:

Emily Rubin, RD, LDN,Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Winner for Dieting/Nutrition:

Set up a customized plan and assessment for nutrition that works best for you and incorporates the flavors and tastes you enjoy most while promoting optimal heart health.

AFC Doctors Express Urgent Care, Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Winner for Family Medicine:

Schedule an appointment for a yearly physical to assess health risks and maintain optimal health.

Einstein Heart & Vascular Care, Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Winner for Cardiology:

If needed, visit the cardiologist to maintain and treat any cardiac conditions & to assist risk.

Maintain a Heart Healthy Diet

(per webmd.com & clevelandclinic.org)

Load your plate, pantry and refrigerator with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, foods rich in fiber, proteins such as skinless poultry, lean meats, nuts, fatty fish – salmon, trout & herring & beans. When cooking, flavor foods with fresh herbs and spices instead of salts or heavy sauces. It is recommended to limit salt intake to 2300mg per day (equal to 1 tsp) and 1500 mg per day for those with high blood pressure or at risk. Be sure to read labels on foods and packaging and aim to avoid foods with trans fats and added sugars.

Visit local grocery stores to load up on fresh, flavorful, seasonal nourishing eats. And when dining out, balance heart-healthy choices with the occasional indulgence.

Local Suggestions:

HipCityVeg, Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Winner for Healthy Food

Pop into this 100% plant-based vegan casual restaurant for easy pickup, or order online for delivery! Feel confident in nourishing your body as all ingredients are 100% organic, non-GMO soy, and leafy greens are locally sourced whenever possible! Choose from breakfast sandwiches& parfaits,portobello burgers/sandwiches, salads, smoothies, juices and even frozen treats like banana whips and milkshakes!

Three Monkeys Café, Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Winner for Salads

Fuel a healthy heart at Three Monkeys Café through ordering one of their claim-to-fame salads, featuring options such as Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple, Grilled Flank Steak, Apple Walnut & Shrimp Tortilla! Also enjoy the health benefits of seafood with their Mango Glazed Salmon & California Salmon Wrap!

Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Winner for Farmer’s Market

Enjoy local, seasonal and healthy produce, meats, cheeses, seafood, dairy and meal options while patronizing local businesses within Philadelphia’s largest indoor market! Peruse the market and pick up all the ingredients to prepare a nourishing, heart-healthy entrée and fill up your refrigerators & pantries!

Regular Exercise & Movement

(per webmd.com, CDC.gov & clevelandclinic.org)

Research suggests exercising at least 30 minutes several times per week, totaling around at 150 minutes, weekly. Activities suggested include: bicycling, brisk walking, swimming, yoga and other forms of moderate-intensity aerobic activities and strengthening. No matter how much exercise you do, research suggests sitting for too long can lead to poorer health outcomes, so keep moving. Whether it is parking a distance from a store, using a standing work station, or even moving around while tuning into a favorite TV show, regular movement is key to maintaining heart health.

Local Suggestions:

Dan Campos Fitness, Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Winners for Gym & Group Exercise

Download their new app and enjoy perusing all they have to offer. Follow along on their Facebook page for the latest updates and tips. Operating as a full-service gym, they offer bootcamps, open gym, personal training, conditioning and much more to accommodate all skill levels and interests.

Chris Beck, B3 Fitness, Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Winner for Personal Training

Enjoy a fully-customizable plan at B3 Fitness to suit your individual needs, aspirations and skill levels to support a healthy lifestyle. Enjoy weight training and other activities to boost stamina and strength and also receive a healthy nutrition plan fully customized by their on-site dietician.

Studio 34, Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Winner for Yoga

Enjoy a vast array of virtual yoga classes live-streamed via Mindbody for $6 each! Peruse their website for a full schedule of classes, which include Hatha Yoga, Align &Flow and many others, all offered at a variety of skill levels. Also, two weekly classes; Yoga for Recovery & Meditation and Mindfulness, are conducted via Zoom and are donation-based. Other workshops and special events are also available, as well as teacher-training.

Reduce & Manage Stress Levels

(per webmd.com,clevelandclinic.org)

A busy lifestyle, general worries & concerns, the pandemic and life challenges can all promote unhealthy stress levels. Studies show high stress levels can lead to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart conditions. Try taking at least 15 minutes or more per day to unwind and engage in activities that can relieve stress. Leaning on friends and family for support, engaging in exercise, visiting a spa, reading, watching a TV show or movie, listening to music and art-based activities such as drawing and painting, can all help to reduce stress levels.

Local Suggestions:

Halcyon Floats, Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Winner for Day Spa

Delight and relax in Philadelphia’s top float center! Also called Sensory Deprivation Therapy, float with ease in a COVID-safe environment as they are taking all necessary protocols and enjoy a serene and calming float experience. Enjoy the feelings of weightlessness while floating in a custom float room filled with Epsom salts, said to decrease stress within the first thirty minutes!

Rescue Rittenhouse Spa, Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Finalist for Day Spa

Step into serenity in this 7,500 square foot facility offering 10 treatment rooms and everything from massages, facials, nail lounge, women’s steam room, saunas, hair salons and even a beauty and makeup boutique! An on-site café bar completes the experience while sipping on custom-made teas and other beverages. Even enjoy a virtual video skincare consultation from the comfort of home.

Painting with a Twist, Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Nominee for Date Night

Indulge your inner artist and paint a masterpiece or simply enjoy the therapeutic/stress-relieving benefits of artistry! Schedule an in-studio session or private party in advance online or pickup a paint kit to complete your masterpiece from the comfort of home with friends and family.

Beauty Releaf, Beautyreleaf.com

Treat yourself to makeup & skincare of the highest quality at Beauty Releaf. Indulge in lip treatments and even pick up a special-edition, Lip Tasker in “Danielle’s Red” to support Danielle, a scad heart attack survivor with 10% of each purchase in the month of February supporting www.scadresearch.org to further promote research and wellness.

 

Limit Alcohol Intake

(per webmd.com & clevelandclinic.org):

For women, this means no more than one drink per day & for men, no more than two (one drink equals 4oz of wine – half a glass or 12oz of beer – usually one can or one bottle) Enjoy a flavorful “mocktail” instead, which can easily capture/mimic the taste, appearance, texture and appearance of its alcoholic counterparts!

Local Suggestions:

Black n Brew, Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Finalist for Coffee

Stop in Monday-Friday, 3-5pm, for a different kind of Happy Hour, offering $1 hot mugs & iced coffees, as well as $2 single shot lattes. Beyond happy hour, also choose from a wide offering of smoothies, such as “Over the Rainbow,” “Orange Sunrise,” and “Mixed Berry.” Choose to enhance the health and flavor of your smoothie with additions such as protein powder, green super food powder, peanut butter or even a shot of espresso for a java twist!

P’unk Burger, Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Finalist for Kid-Friendly Restaurant

Indulge a sweet tooth in the form of a healthy sip! Transform a traditional happy hour into one with a customizable milkshake, with a base of either dairy or non-dairy milk for a vegan option and filled with locally-sourced ice creams! Also enjoy Maine Root Fair Trade All-Natural Fountain sodas, Honest teas, and more.

Avoid Smoking & Secondhand Smoke Exposure

(per clevelandclinic.org, American Heart Association & webmd.com)

Studies indicate smokers and those directly exposed to smoke are at an enhanced risk for heart conditions. In fact, the risk is 25-30 percent higher for those exposed to secondhand smoke. The AHA notes exposure to tobacco smoke contributes to about 34,000 premature heart disease deaths and 7,300 lung cancer deaths each year! Per Cleveland Clinic, “Nonsmokers who have high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol have an even greater risk of developing heart disease when they’re exposed to secondhand smoke. This is because the chemicals emitted from cigarette smoke promote the development of plaque buildup in the arteries.”

Maintain a Healthy Sleep Regimen

(per clevelandclinic.org)

Adequate levels of sleep each day are key to maintaining optimal heart health. Aim for at least 6-8 hours per night. Studies show this amount can offer protection from heart conditions, as well as other ailments. According to Cleveland Clinic, “A study looking at 3,000 adults over the age of 45 found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night. Researchers believe sleeping too little causes disruptions in underlying health conditions and biological processes, including blood pressure and inflammation.”

Local Suggestions:

Hope Chest, Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Finalist for Lingerie

Visit online or shop in-store for a vast assortment of cozy sleepwear, loungewear, slippers, robes and other attire to make sleep as comfortable as possible!

Urban Princess Boutique, Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Finalist for Women’s Clothing

Shop online for direct ship or in-store pickup or visit in-store and explore their plethora of soft pullovers, cozy tunics, thermal tops, leggings and more, to make sleep a comfortable and satisfying one. Also shop their assortments of essential oils, soaps, aromatherapy balms, bath bombs and even a “sleep tight spray,” to create your own sleep oasis.

Fox & Holly, Lahaska

Prepare & customize a sleep night ritual with an assortment of high-end body washes, creams, Life is Good brand sleepwear and much more.

Maintain Dental/Oral Hygiene:

(per clevelandclinic.org)

Not only does optimal dental and oral hygiene maintain physical appearance, but dental health is also a valuable indicator in overall health. According to Cleveland Clinic, those who have periodontal (gum) disease often have the same risk factors for heart disease. Many studies indicate mouth bacteria can cause an elevation in C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels. These changes can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. As a result, brushing & flossing twice daily, as well as receiving regular dental cleanings is essential to guarding against heart disease.

Local Suggestions:

Penn Dental Family Practice, Philadelphia, 2020 Happening List Winner for Dentist

Treat the entire family and the entire scope of oral health in one place. With specialists in general dentistry, pediatric dentistry, orthodontics, dental implants, periodontics & endodontics, it is a convenient way to address every dental specialty all at once using the latest technology and over 35 doctors on-staff.

ROG Orthodontics, Pottstown, Douglasville, Wyomissing

Maintain and enhance your smile at ROG Orthodontics, where they offer vast treatment options including traditional braces, Invisalign, Incognito and more. With over 60-years of expertise in the dental care business, the knowledgeable team offers customized treatment plans and payment options to make maintaining one’s smile more affordable and a wise, lifelong investment.

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