It’s February, which means it’s American Heart Month! Promoting heart health, especially heart health for athletes, is something I find important not only in February, but year round.
Athletes are generally a healthy bunch of people. And because we’re out being active, we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking we’re resistant to cardiovascular issues. It’s easy to think that just because we can run a race or do a triathlon, we’re perfectly healthy. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking can be very dangerous to your health and your life.
Athletes are not immune to cardiac or other health conditions. Unhealthy diets, poorly structured or inconsistent training, genetics, and other risk factors all play a role in your health. Exercise and nutrition have a huge impact not only on our sports performance, but on our health as well.
I truly believe that exercise is medicine. And while it’s great that we workout, a healthy lifestyle doesn’t end there. We need to train smart so that exercise doesn’t negatively impact our health. We need to eat healthy and not rely on so much processed and unhealthy food. And we need to take care of our emotional health and not let stress take over.
It’s easy to avoid what we should be doing for better health if there is no immediate threat. But I’ve seen the difficulties my patients have gone through with recovering from cardiac surgery. I’ve heard them when they told me they wished they’d done things differently in the past. Don’t wait until it’s too late and your lying in an operating room getting your chest cracked open. Take care of your heart and take care of yourself before you’re forced to make drastic changes.
While there are certain factors that are out of our control, such as genetics, there are many factors that you do have control over. Here are some ways to stay healthy and protect your heart:
- Exercise regularly & consistently
- Follow well structured training
- Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Choose quality foods and ingredients, avoid overly processed foods and fast food.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Get regular check ups
- Know your health stats (including your blood pressure numbers)
- Reduce and manage stress
- Get enough quality sleep
- Don’t ignore seemingly minor symptoms. If something feels “off” or doesn’t feel right, call your doctor