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Here's To Your Health

POSTED February 1, 2012 12:44 a.m.

With American Heart Month and Valentine’s Day in February, consider putting more focus on your heart this month. It’s an opportunity to give loved ones a heart-healthy treat or engage in a heart-smart activity.
But matters of the heart aren’t just reserved for this month. TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, offers tips to keep your heart healthy year-round.
Mind Your Food
• Make a healthy meal at home. Cooking at home helps you control the quality and quantity of what you eat. There are many healthy foods that are also considered an aphrodisiac, such as artichokes, asparagus, avocados, basil, figs, oysters, and strawberries.
• Consume less sodium. Serve food that is lower in salt, like fruits, vegetables, and other fresh foods. You can also leave added salt out of recipes like casseroles and stews.
• Eat smaller portions. Use a smaller plate to trick yourself into thinking you have consumed more. Share a meal with your sweetheart, so you don’t overeat.
• Don’t deprive yourself. If you receive a box of chocolates, don’t deny yourself a sweet treat. Take it slow and enjoy in moderation. Allot yourself one piece each day or every other day.
Give a Healthy Gift
• Make a homemade valentine. Write a love note or compose a poem. This gift is personal and has more permanence than sweet treats
• Spend time with each other. Instead of swapping a box of chocolates, do an activity together. Get your heart pumping with activities such as ice skating, hiking, or gathering wood for a romantic fire. Consider a date to a local cooking class
• Relax. Go get a “his and hers” massage. This can relieve stress and lower blood pressure
• Make a modern “mixed tape.” Surprise your sweetheart with a workout playlist on his or her mp3 player. Choose upbeat, romantic songs to get the heart rate up during workouts.
Prepare for a Romantic Getaway
• Gather healthy snacks. Bring your own meal or snacks for the flight or car ride. Homemade sandwiches and fresh fruit are a great option.
• Eat out wisely. Check out your destination online and look at restaurant menus before the trip. This will give you an opportunity to find places that serve healthy options.
• Get moving. Plan excursions that get your heart rate up. Kayaking, snorkeling, skiing, and hiking keep individuals active on a vacation.
Volunteer Together
• Give back. Ask your date to volunteer with you at a local charity. Volunteering is a healthy habit to boost your mind, increase fulfillment, and connect with others.
Be Heart Healthy Year-Round
• Know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. According to the American Heart Association, signs include chest discomfort that lasts more than a few minutes or comes back; discomfort in other areas of the upper body, such as one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach; and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.
• Avoid smoking. Tobacco smoke can cause health problems for smokers and people around them, including heart disease and lung cancer, among others.
• Limit alcohol consumption. Drink in moderation. This means no more than one drink per day for females and two drinks per day for males.
• Make a change. Decide to make one small modification each day. Skip a trip to the vending machine, drink one more glass of water, or add extra vegetables to your meal.
Founded more than 64 years ago, TOPS is the only nonprofit, noncommercial weight-loss organization of its kind. To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677.

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