As a black woman, I’ve always heard that heart disease was very common in the black population, and that caused me to do more research on the topic. As my research continued, I always found myself reading about the scary rates of heart disease and all the different factors that can increase your risk. At a point, I was just going down the rabbit hole of all the negatives of heart disease and I had the idea that to be heart healthy, I had to eat the foods I don’t like and do stuff that I didn’t enjoy. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that heart health can look different for all people. I’ve realized that heart health is more than just changing my diet to more heart healthy meals and adding more exercise to my routine. It is also doing the things that make me happy and act as a stress relief. So, after I realized that, I began to research ways to make my heart strong that coincided with the activities I like to do. Things like dancing, laughing, and just relaxing are all ways that I have found to be the most enjoyable activities for me and at the same time, they are promoting health in their own ways.
Dancing is something that I like to do just by myself in my house. I crank the music up and I just dance around and clean, cook, whatever! Not a big dancer, here are a few of my go to dancing tracks:
Believe it or not, dancing can be very beneficial to your heart health as well! Like, how?! How can something so fun make a difference on the strength of my heart? Rest easy cause I looked it up:
- According to US News dancing increases your heart rate just like aerobic exercise! So, dancing is basically the same as doing cardio, just more fun!1
- Healthline also found that dancing acts as a stress relief and that releases a lot of pressure on the heart. For me, dancing around my house helps me relax because it allows me to be as silly as I want – it’s my space!2
Laughing, who doesn’t love to laugh?! People tell me they always see me with a smile on my face and I think that’s true. I love to laugh at the silliest things, even if they are not that funny. I just enjoy the way laughing makes me feel even on the gloomy days.
Need some funny things to laugh at? Here are some of the resources that get me giggling:
I have found out that laughing can be one of the best “activities” to promote heart health:
- The American Heart Association found that laughing can help force you to feel better. People always say “fake it till you make it” which I have found to be true especially for laughing. Everyone has hard days and on the hard days, I try to find even more ways to make myself laugh – as a stress relief and a distraction.3
- The To Your Health blog also noted that laughing helps decrease the inflammation in the arteries which can influence blood flow to the heart. Inflammation can be dangerous due to increasing chances of blood clots and restricting blood flow to and from the heart. Decreasing the inflammation in your arteries can help keep your heart pumping strong (Hopkins, 2020).4,5
Relaxing is probably my true favorite activity. Who doesn’t love a day, or just time, to yourself?! I’ve found that self-care days are some of the most important for me and my heart health. On my self-care days, I find myself lounging around the house, listening to music, enjoying some of my favorite sweets, and sleeping!
I also try to meditate to help me relax. To be honest, I’m not the great at meditating but, when I have a few minutes I try to sit back and relax however I can. Here are some good resources that can help you get your relaxation going, between guided meditation and peaceful music
This is also another good one.
What I’m starting to understand about self-care days is that they are vital in decreasing my stress load, and anxiety. It seems that self-care days are also great for your heart. The American Heart Association found that finding a happy place and meditation, can both be highly beneficial in the following ways3:
- Finding your “happy place” allows the body to be at ease. Research shows that having this time to escape can help decrease stress, anxiety, and anger which all take a toll on the strength of the heart.
- Meditation is another great way to calm the heart rate and take some stress off the heart. It can also help you feel more in control of yourself which also helps lower the stress and anxiety you may carry.
- It helps you feel more control of how your body reacts to pain which can allow for more control on how stress and anxiety affects your health.
So, remember, heart health is not the same for everyone. While it is important to incorporate those heart healthy foods into your diet and increase your physical activity, it is also important to do the things you like to do because when you like to do something, the research shows it can be beneficial at lowering stress levels. If you find yourself going down the rabbit hole researching heart disease, like I did, just remind yourself that those are just clinical recommendations and horror stories, but heart health can be a fun and enjoyable, just find the things that make you happy.
My New Year’s resolution is to say no more and I think that’s the most liberating and stress-free part of 2020 so far, and I would recommend it to everyone! A lot of what influences heart health is stress and saying no has allowed me to feel less stressed. It’s also important to remember to have fun. Every time I’m in a bad mood, having a bad reaction to someone, or just pushing myself a little too hard, I feel the tightness in my shoulders start to creep in. It’s easy to fall into the trap of working too much and reaching burn-out but it’s also important to recognize what it does to the heart. Days filled with nothing are just as important as workdays! So, remember to laugh even at the small stuff and treat yourself to the good things in life because your body is always working hard, even when you don’t realize it.
1 US News. 2019, July 15. Dance your way to better health. Retrieved from https://blog.providence.org/archive/amazing-ways-laughter-improves-your-heart-health
2 Healthline. 2019. 8 Benefits of dance Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/benefits-of-dance
3 American Heart Association, 2017. Healthy lifestyle – Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living
4 To Your Health Blog. 2017, December 7. Amazing ways laughter improves your heart health. Retrieved from https://blog.providence.org/archive/amazing-ways-laughter-improves-your-heart-health
5 John Hopkins Medicine, 2020. Fight inflammation to help prevent heart disease. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/fight-inflammation-to-help-prevent-heart-disease