We naturally associate February with Valentine’s Day, but it is also Heart Health Month. With the former, we think of ways to show love for others in our lives. I want to talk this month about how loving yourself can be healthy for your heart.

Most women are overachievers. We juggle family, work, friends, church and giving back to our community. We also try, but often fail, to fit in time for ourselves. In reality, “me time” should be a priority! Unfortunately, women are very good at short-changing ourselves and this can have a negative effect on our health.

When you continually put yourself last, your health suffers and eventually you will have no choice but to put yourself first, but not in a good way. You will suddenly be first because your health will be compromised and you will no longer be able to do all the things you do now. After all, it’s rather hard to work a full-time job, drop the grandkids off at swim lessons, bake 4 dozen brownies for the Elk’s Club bake sale, plan and coordinate your daughter’s bridal shower, work the nursery at Vacation Bible School and cook 250 dinners at the soup kitchen – all while confined to a hospital bed with congestive heart failure!

Eventually something’s got to give! Either you’ve got to find a way to make yourself and your health a priority, or your health will find a way to make itself a priority. Being proactive is the answer and it’s easier than you might think; a few simple changes is all it takes:

Set aside 10-15 minutes per day as quiet time; whatever time of day works best for you. Turn off the TV, the radio, your phone – no distractions. Consider spending this time in meditation or prayer, soak in a hot tub, or sit quietly outdoors listening to the sounds of nature. The point is to get away from the hustle and bustle and find some peace and solitude – some “me time”.

You don’t have to be a marathon trainer to get your heart in great shape. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate activity. This can be divided into 10-15 minute increments. Activities such as walking, biking, climbing stairs, hula-hooping – even house cleaning! Anything that raises your heart rate is good!

Adopt new ways of eating that become habits for a lifetime versus going on a “diet”. Heart healthy eating habits include eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting your intake of saturated and trans fats like butter, bacon fat, gravies and cream sauces.

Don’t wait for your health to make itself a priority in your life. You need to be the one to make yourself and your health a priority. You’re worth it!

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