February is American Heart Month, and not just because of Valentine’s Day. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared February to be American Heart Month and the tradition has been carried on ever since. In order to properly appreciate our cardiovascular health, here are five ways to celebrate.
1. Take a heart-healthy cardio class
Get your blood pumping with a fun cardio class. Whether it’s at the new SoulCycle in Old Orchard or a WERQ dance fitness class (a Make it Better Best of 2012 winner!), you should get your blood pumping for 30 minutes a day, five times a week. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of a combination of moderate and vigorous exercise every week.
2. Donate to Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Our very own Northwestern Memorial Hospital was ranked between the top two spots for all hospitals in the United States when it comes to heart conditions. Patients who suffer heart failure are most likely to survive if they receive treatment at Northwestern Memorial. The hospital is also ranked second for survival when it comes to patients who have suffered heart attacks and strokes. These ailments are the most common and the most serious of all heart issues. A donation to Northwestern Memorial can help ensure our hospital stays at the top of the list when it comes to treating cardiovascular patients.
3. Cook a heart-healthy meal
It doesn’t have to be out of a low-sodium cookbook (although that’s not a bad place to start). Heart-healthy cooking should focus on “good fats” like avocados and fish and steer away from red meat. It should also focus on whole grains and dark, leafy greens. No, that doesn’t necessarily mean kale — it can also be spinach, watercress or arugula. With so many “fitspiration” accounts on Instagram and Pinterest, it’s easy to find lots of recipes to get you started. Try this quick and easy vegan chickpea curry — it combines heart-healthy grains with clean, plant-based protein.
4. Buy a red dress from a local boutique
National Wear Red Day might have already passed, but there’s no reason you can’t sport something from Frances Heffernan in Winnetka and Wear in Good Health in Highland Park another day this month. The organization Go Red for Women is committed to fighting heart disease and educating women about the importance of heart health. Find out how to throw your own Go Red fundraiser — you can even wear your new red dress.
5. Do some research into your own heart history
Research is half the battle when it comes to heart disease. It’s ultra-important to know your family history so that you can be aware of what preventative steps you might need to take. Whether it’s dialing back on the sodium or talking to your doctor about more significant steps, being well-versed in your family’s heart health is something you need to make a priority.