February is Heart Health Month, a perfect time to take stock of your health and decide what lifestyle changes, if any, need to be made to improve or preserve the health of your heart. Most people are aware of the commonly recommended tips for a healthy heart, which include exercising regularly, avoiding tobacco products, eating healthy foods, and reducing stress.
Sarah Coy, Director of Nursing for Newton Village’s Health Center, has additional recommendations for keeping your heart healthy. “As a cancer survivor, I’ve found that expressing gratitude can improve your health,” she explained. “Waking up with a grateful heart is a perfect way to start the day. In the evening, reflect on what your body did for you that day and recognize the gifts you gave yourself that contributed to your health. For example, if you took the stairs instead of the elevator, you did something wonderful for yourself.”
Coy has researched clinical trial information, noting that feeling grateful has been shown to help lower blood pressure and improve immune function. “If you approach each day with a grateful attitude, it leads to healthy eating and more exercise, which contributes to better patient outcomes,” she said. “Grateful people are also less likely to overeat, smoke, or overindulge with alcohol.”
A positive attitude and grateful perspective have also been shown to retrain the brain. “We definitely see benefits within the health profession,” added Coy. “When a patient focuses on gratitude, the brain becomes healthier as well, due to increased blood flow and good oxygenation. This can help ward off dementia, stroke, and other ailments later in life.”
Coy encourages people to feel grateful for a variety of special highlights throughout each day. “It helps to reflect on moments you had with friends, remembering people who made you laugh, and thinking about who you connected with that day,” she said. “Being grateful helps lead to a healthy heart.”
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