Tips from Health Coach Nola Peacock, PT, DPT
JACKSON, Wyo. — February is American Heart Month, a time when the nation spotlights heart disease, the greatest health threat to Americans and the leading cause of death worldwide.
According to Health Coach Nola Peacock, PT, DPT, you can avoid being one of the “disheartening” statistics. “When I tell my patients that focused attention on key lifestyle changes can prevent, treat and even sometimes reverse heart disease, that’s something they can get excited about,” says Peacock, the clinical coordinator of the Lifestyle Medicine program at St. John’s Health in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Here are the lifestyle tips that improve heart health and save lives:
No matter how much or how long you’ve smoked, quitting benefits you. And smoking cessation yields benefits quickly. Cardiac function starts to improve within a day and much of the excess risk of health attack is gone after one year. And, the Wyoming Quit Tobacco program (1-800-QUIT-NOW) offers resource proven to increase the success of your quit journey. Support includes personalized quit plans, coaching support, free nicotine replacement therapies (patches, gum, lozenges) and free or low-cost medications that can help.
Eat heart-healthy foods to help reduce your cholesterol.
Focusing on a whole food plant-based eating pattern, including plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and beans, may help keep your cholesterol levels in the healthy range and decrease your risk for heart disease. Your local primary care provider can refer you to St. John’s Health for a discounted preventative blood screening to check your cholesterol levels, and help you decide if cholesterol-lowering medication is right for you.
Keep your blood pressure under 120/80.
Diet, exercise, and reducing stress can help. Experts recommend 20-30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days, including brisk walking and many enjoyable recreational activities. If mobility is an issue for you, a visit with a Physical Therapist to develop a personalized exercise plan may be helpful.
In today’s hectic world, reducing stress is a good idea for nearly everyone! In addition to exercise, a healthy diet, and avoiding unhealthy habits such as alcohol misuse and tobacco, many people find that meditation such as guided practices and mindfulness breathing exercises produce beneficial results.
Peacock recognizes that the recommendations, while simple, aren’t necessarily easy. “The rewards are significant, though,” Peacock reminds her patients. “These lifestyle choices are beneficial because they enhance heart health for everyone, whether they have already experienced cardiovascular disease or are being proactive to prevent it from developing.”
If you need help with accountability in order to develop and stick to a plan, see your primary care provider or reach out to St. John’s Wellness to learn about the Health Coaching program.