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:

Norristown Family Physicians, Norristown, 2020 Happening List Winner for Family Medicine

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

BodyMetrix Health & Wellness Services, Limerick, 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.

Cardiology Consultants of Philadelphia, Lansdale, 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:

Main Street Nutrition, Collegeville, 2020 Happening List Winner for Healthy Food

Stop in and fuel up with a healthy smoothie offered in flavors that only sound indulgent (i.e. apple pie, cannoli, peanut butter blast and chocolate mint cookie, to name a few!), but are filled with the nourishing, fresh ingredients essential to keeping a healthy heart satisfied and energized! Also offered are fresh teas, coffees, and kids shakes!

Tribe Nutrition, Pennsburg, 2020 Happening List Finalist for Healthy Food

Offering over 130 flavors of protein shakes to choose from, enjoy healthy, energizing sips and even inquire about their “At-Home Starter Kit,” which includes shake mix, protein drink mix, herbal tea & aloe, to create your own healthy beverages from the comfort of home.

Sweet Aloha Bowls, Royersford, 2020 Happening List Finalist for Healthy Food & Winner for Specialty Food

Enjoy a healthy taste of the tropics without leaving the county at Sweet Aloha Bowls, where they offer a taste of the rainbow in their bowls piled high with ingredients such as fresh fruit, granola, almond milk, coconut water, juice and more! Sweetened only with maple syrup and other natural flavors, it is a healthy form of indulgence! Also try their smoothies, baked oatmeals, overnight oats, toasts and more!

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:

The Lions Den Elite Training Facility, Colmar, 2020 Happening List Winner for Gym

Choose from an assortment of group classes, including strength camp, strongman, mobility/stretching, Olympic lifting and more! If in-person workouts are not of interest, try their 100% free online training program, The Forces of Nature, from the comfort of home! Several membership tiers are available to meet individual/family needs.

Hybrid Fitness, North Wales, 2020 Happening List Winner for Personal Training

Visit Hybrid Fitness for not only personal training and workout regimens, but also engage in their classes which include barbell club, bootcamp, kickboxing and numerous others!

Whole Body Yoga Studio, North Wales, 2020 Happening List Winner for Yoga

Summon your inner “zen” through engaging in yoga, offered in studio, virtual or a combination of both! Download their app to enroll in classes, check their schedule, or to engage in classes from the comfort of home. Classes are offered at all skill levels and massages and reflexology are also available for a total body wellness experience.

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:

Body Serene Day Spa & Salon, Skippack, 2020 Happening List Winner for Day Spa:

Offering convenient online scheduling and appointments, Body Serene is a multi-faceted spa experience, offering massages, nail care, skin therapy treatments, and a full-service hair salon. Each month, they offer specials, which for this month includes Brazilian blowouts, chocolate fig fondant pedicure, a wine & chocolate facial and more! Enjoy a healthy body indulgence without sacrificing on nutrition!

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.

Merrymead Farm, Lansdale, PA, 2020 Happening List Finalist for Ice Cream

Visit this Lansdale, family-owned fully functioning farm and market, for the freshest foods and healthy indulgences. Stroll the grounds with family and friends and disconnect from the stressors of life, while visiting with their on-site animals and various seasonal sights and sounds. Indulge your inner baker by purchasing one of their DIY Cookie Decorating Kits and enjoy a fun experience creating your own sweet treats to enjoy in moderation.

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:

Clean Juice, Collegeville, 2020 Happening List Finalist for Healthy Food

As a USDA-certified Organic restaurant, order in-store, online, or download the app, and enjoy 100% organic cold pressed juices such as “The Sweet Green” which is filled with green veggies & fruits, smoothies such as “The Coffee One” which is laden with cold brew coffee, bananas, apple butter & dates or try acai bowls and other healthy eats like avocado toast!

Raw Replenish Juice & Smoothie Bar, Pennsburg, 2020 Happening List Finalist for Healthy Food

Delight in an array of specialty smoothies, including the “Unicorn,” which is chock-full of dragon fruit, pineapple, coconut milk, house-made coco whip and much more! Also try their simple smoothies such as Wild Berry, acai bowls, wellness shots, kombucha, daily-cold pressed juices and even salads/wraps/sandwiches 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:

Jay Ann Intimates, Huntingdon Valley, 2020 Happening List Winner for Lingerie

Pick up relaxing, comfortable and high-quality sleep attire at Jay Ann Intimates! Offering a vast assortment of robes, sleep shirts, camisoles and more, feel at ease while settling in for the night. Conveniently shop online or in-store for other sleep wear, accessories and apparel.

Her Hide Out, Collegeville, 2020 Happening List Winner for Gift Shop

Prepare for restorative sleep and pick up an assortment of high quality, relaxing shower gels, bubble baths, body lotions, cozy socks and wraps and more. All items are available for convenient purchase in-store or from their online shop!

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:

Ocean Dental Center, Willow Grove, 2020 Happening List Winner for Dentist

Maintain and improve oral health in a seamless, quick and easy manner at Ocean Dental Center, where they operate as a full-service oral health center. From a routine cleaning, to invisalign, cosmetic dentistry and dental implants, all are completed with the latest advanced technology.

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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