Heart-Healthy Habits for Valentines on the Go
There’s no better time than the valentine season to keep your traveling heart in fine form – to benefit yourself and the ones you love.
Here comes a shout out to prospective valentines who like to travel. It’s relatively easy for the wanderlust crowd to follow the American Heart Association’s (AHA’s) master guidelines for optimal cardiac fitness. Simply stated, the cornerstones of the AHA’s pro-heart plan are eating nutritious foods, banishing smoking, engaging in regular exercise, and reducing stress. Concerning dietary maxims, many of the places where travelers stay (think condos, cottages, cabins, recreational vehicles, and efficiency-style hotel rooms) contain compact kitchens that make it easy to prepare wholesome meals and snacks. When you factor in the positive potentials for physical fitness, smoking avoidance, and stress management that an action-oriented traveling lifestyle affords, it’s a cinch to adhere to pro-cardiac practices while you’re on the road. There’s no better time than the valentine season to keep your traveling heart in fine form – to benefit yourself and the ones you love.
Taking care of yourself (and your heart) by eating well, becoming smoke- free, exercising regularly, and managing stress effectively is one of the best, most enduring gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones. Happy Valentine’s Day!
- Choose heart-smart foods.
In general terms, the experts at the American Heart Association recommend eating a wide variety of beneficial foods on a daily basis. This rule applies whether
you’re flying internationally or domestically, taking off on a regional road trip, or ‘staycationing’ close to home.
Low-calorie fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that contain plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fiber rank highest on the heart-smart scale. So whenever and wherever you’re traveling, take a few minutes to stop by a roadside produce stand or a grocery store that’s stocked with fresh fare from local farmers’ fields, orchards, and groves.
And remember to add fish to your menu at least twice weekly. The omega-3 fatty acids present in oily fish such as albacore tuna, lake trout, and salmon are heart-friendly nutrients that none of us can afford to miss.
Whenever and wherever you’re traveling, take a few minutes to stop by a roadside produce stand or a grocery store that’s stocked with fresh fare from local farmers’ fields, orchards and groves.
While you’re focusing on recommended foods, you might as well take time to scan nutritional info on grocery labels in an effort to avoid high-calorie, low-nutrient fare with excess sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol - the infamous, artery-clogging substance that hinders cardiac functioning over time.
The Heart Association’s official food group guidelines are a cinch to follow when you’re storing provisions and cooking them on your own, but nourishing foods can also be found in most restaurants – provided you read their menus carefully . If you’re opting out of cooking while you’re traveling, simply keep pro-cardiac meal choices in mind.
Daily dietary recommendations include eight to ten servings of raw, cooked, or juiced veggies and fruits as well as six or more servings of breads, cereals, pasta, and starchy vegetables, such as corn, beans, and potatoes. Whole grain, low-fat and low-salt products like brown rice and whole wheat bread are strongly encouraged.
A daily maximum of six ounces of cooked lean meat (fat trimmed), poultry (skinned) or fish is suggested. Meat, poultry, and fish should be broiled, grilled, baked, roasted, sautéed, microwaved or stir fried, as opposed to being fried in oil.
Soybeans or tofu, eggs, peas, and lentils are good alternate sources of dietary protein.
Fat-free or low-fat milk products, yogurt, or cheese and fats/oils contained in foods like canola or corn oil, salad dressing, mayonnaise, peanut butter, seeds, nuts, olives and avocados are likewise included in the AHA recommendations, in a quantity of two to three servings each day.
Hydrogenated oils and fats are discouraged. Animal-based foods such as butter, cheese, whole milk, fatty meat and egg yolks are high in cholesterol, and should be eaten sparingly. Last but not least, those who usually pass on alcohol are advised to continue their pattern. Adults who choose to use alcohol should limit their intake to one daily drink for women or two for men.
- Become smoke-free.
Long-term medical research has established that smoking is a harmful practice that can hurt or kill you as well as those around you. Once you decide to abandon the dangers of smoking, aspire to be your own best advocate for hearty success. Seek support from family and friends, and treat yourself to something special to celebrate your freedom from tobacco. Steer clear of others when they’re smoking, and engage in activities that distract you from smoking. On the plus side for anyone trying to kick a smoking habit, you can set your sights on the steady stream of new places, new people, and positive distractions that enter your life automatically when you’re traveling.
You can walk or ride a rented bike from here to there. Swim laps or hit the dance floor whenever you are able.
- Aim for perpetual motion.
Healthy hearts reside in active bodies. Recent joint AHA/American College of Sports Medicine recommendations urge adults ages 18-65 to participate in a minimum of thirty minutes of moderately intense exercise at least five times per week (preferably daily). Modern travelers have plenty of appealing options when it comes to accessible exercise. You can walk or ride a rented bike from here to there. Swim laps or hit the dance floor whenever you are able. Jump rope on your condo’s patio, practice yoga moves, or jog in place while you listen to music or watch a movie in your hotel room or cabin. Run with your dog around an RV resort. Take walking tours of new locales. Engage in pick-up sports games, fly a kite, hike a hilly trail, paddle your kayak across a lake, or just say no to golf carts. The overall goal is to keep moving!
- Stamp out stress.
There’s plenty of stress to go around in the contemporary world, and unrelieved stress is known to be hurtful to heart health. Emotionally upsetting circumstances are experienced on an individual level, so each person needs to identify his/her unique stressors and develop strategies for managing them. According to the AHA, regular exercise helps minimize the effects of stress, as does sitting quietly for fifteen to twenty minutes each day while deep-breathing and thinking peaceful thoughts. Expressing your feelings, budgeting time, solving problems, avoiding upsetting situations, and reacting positively to incoming difficulties are also recommended. It’s practically guaranteed that stress will find you. Your job is to buffer its impact with your positive reactions.
For a wealth of information about maintaining heart health, visit the American Heart Association’s website at www.americanheart.org.
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"Heart-Healthy Habits for Valentines on the Go"
Paula Loehr, R.N., B.A., worked in the fields of community health and nursing education, and was a school health nurse at the elementary, secondary and collegiate levels before becoming a fulltime journalist. Her writing specialties include family tr...