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:

Leslie Weinman,Live Well Nutrition, Oldwick, 2020 Happening List Finalist 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.

Victor Peng, M.D., Flemington, 2020 Happening List Winner for Family Medicine:

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

Andrey Espinoza, M.D.Advanced Heart & Vascular Institute,Flemington, 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:

Grounded For Life Café, Clinton, 2020 Happening List Winner for Healthy Food

As a plant-based café, they offer breakfast all-day with options such as breakfast tacos, grounded breakfast sandwich, scrambled vegan eggs, as well as veggie dogs, soups, impossible burgers, and much more, all vegetarian/vegan! Enjoy outdoor dining or curbside pickup and conveniently place your order online!

Basil Bandwagon, Clinton, Flemington, Lambertville & Online (www.basilbandwagon.com), 2020 Happening List Finalist for Healthy Food

Visit the Basil Bandwagon Natural Market for healthy eats and treats, such as chocolate covered strawberries, freshly-made smoothies, fresh produce, and even customize gift baskets to send to friends & loved ones! Beyond edibles and sips, a vast array of skincare, makeup and other essentials are available to complement and add to a healthy-heart regimen.

Lambertville Station Restaurant & Inn, Lambertville, NJ, 2020 Happening List Winner for Outdoor Dining

Enjoy a scenic and relaxing view while dining inside or out at Lambertville Station. Also offering takeout options via online ordering and even delivery, it is a unique and accommodating experience. Delight in a full lunch/dinner menu, served seven days per week, and choose from a wide range of options, including salads, sandwiches, entrees and desserts, all made with the finest and freshest ingredients crafted by a renowned chef.

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:

HealthQuest, Flemington, 2020 Happening List Winner for Gym

Enjoy and choose from a plethora of wellness & workout options at this full-service, 105,000 square foot gym and wellness center, which includes: classes, Pilates, a fitness studio, swimming pool, martial arts, spin studio, and many more! Get started on your fitness journey with a free trial by signing up online via website.

Her Fitness, Flemington, 2020 Happening List Winner for Personal Training

Gain confidence, flexibility and restore/maintain health through physical fitness at Her Fitness. Arrange for personal or group training sessions, Ab/Core classes, and even download their free fitness report to get started on a personal wellness journey!

Yoga Essence, Lebanon, 2020 Happening List Winner for Yoga

If new to Yoga Essence, sign up for a free class and/or 30-days of Unlimited Yoga or Unlimited Yoga & Aerial Yoga. Explore the class schedule, which includes Aerial Conditioning, Heated Flow, Gentle Yoga, Gin & Meditation and many more and sign-up online. Livestreams, teacher training and apparel for purchase are also all available.

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:

Euphoria Studio, Frenchtown, 2020 Happening List Winner for Day Spa

Visit Euphoria and enjoy a full-service hair salon offering cuts, color and treatments, as well as event and bridal services, an online store/boutique offering their full line-up of products, clothing, as well as facials, nail services/treatments, massages, reflexology in their spa.

Zanya Spa Salon, Lambertville, NJ, 2020 Happening List Finalist for Day Spa

Conveniently book an appointment online at Zanya for a stress-relieving hair cut/style/treatment, makeup session, facial or skincare treatment, as well as comprehensive massages and other body care treatments, such as a body scrub or body butter wrap. Health and safety is at the forefront of Zanya’s mission and they consciously work to ensure all protocols are effectively followed.

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.

Paper Floral Co, Frenchtown, 2020 Happening List Winner for Group Outing

Grab friends and family for a private studio session or distanced Zoom learning session/workshops and create your own custom paper floral designs! Sign up online and channel your inner artist through designing crepe paper flower garland, coral charm peonies and many more from the comfort of home or in-studio!

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:

Frenchtown Fresh, Frenchtown, 2020 Happening List Finalist for Healthy Food

Stop in to place an order or call ahead and enjoy a 100% plant-based juice bar, plus healthy eats, such as bowls, plant-based burgers & sandwiches! Sip on an array of 12oz juices, which offerings include, green-based, anti-inflammatory or even make your own and choose four ingredients from their vast offerings! Also sip on 16oz smoothies, which include “Pumpkin Pie,” “Kale Colada,” and “Blueberry Bliss,” to name a few.

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:

Sage by Attachments Boutique, Flemington, 2020 Happening List Finalist for Women’s Clothing

Stop into the boutique or shop online and pick up cozy slippers, robes, soaps, candles, and essential oils to create a relaxing atmosphere ideal for restorative sleep.

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:

Oconer Family & Cosmetic Dentistry, Flemington, 2020 Happening List Winner for Dentist

Visit online to receive easy and convenient quotes for procedures and schedule an appointment to make an investment in maintaining and promoting optimal oral care.

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