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28 tips for 28 days of heart-healthy ways February is Heart Month!

SPRINGFIELD February is the shortest month of the year, but it can provide long-term benefits as you kick-off a new heart healthy lifestyle. The American Heart Association (AHA) has put together 28 tips for 28 days of heart healthy ways you can use during Heart Month.
Overweight and obesity, especially among children, have emerged as serious threats to our nation's health. They have risen rapidly among women, men and children of all racial and ethnic groups. And this trend is projected to continue.
Obesity is a major modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It also increases the potential for high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, which are each major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and other serious health problems. Recent research suggests that obesity shortens the average lifespan by at least four to nine months, and if childhood obesity continues to increase, it could cut two to five years from the average lifespan.
The following tips from the AHA can provide individuals and families ways to begin a new way of life.
1. There's a two-for-one bargain you can't live without exercise! You'll gain about two hours of life expectancy for each hour of regular exercise you do.
2. There are 1,440 minutes in every day. Why not schedule 30 of them for physical activity? Just 30 minutes a day can make a real difference in your health. Something as simple as walking can go a long way toward a healthy life!
3. You're busy. You're on the go. You want to exercise, but when? Getting in daily exercise isn't as hard as you think. Take time at lunch or right before or after dinner to walk, cycle, jog, skate, bike.take time for exercise every little bit helps.
4. Adding physical activity every day can be as easy as child's play. Play with children or pets at the park after work. Jump rope, walk, roller blade or play basketball with your friends. Play is fun. Play is good! If you find it too difficult to be active after work, try it before work. But try it!
5. Are you in the community of commuters? Do you get in your car, drive to work, sit at your desk, drive home and sit on the couch five days a week? All that sitting isn't good for your health. Add small ways every day to boost your activity:
Park the car farther away from your destination
Take the stairs, not the elevator
Take half of your lunch break to walk
Walk with your family after dinner.
6. Ever wonder why kids are so energetic? One word: recess! Adults need recess too. With a little creativity and planning, even the person with the busiest schedule can make room for physical activity. Take time every day to walk, run, bike or play.
7. For many folks, before or after work or meals is often an available time to cycle, walk or play. Think about your weekly or daily schedule and look for or make opportunities to be more active. Every little bit helps.
8. Labor-saving devices at home save us time, but cost us in physical activity. Why not turn off the self-propel option on your lawn mower or vacuum cleaner and use leg power! Use a rake, not a leaf blower. Sweep your driveway, don't power wash it. Or if you must use them, take all that time you save to get to the gym.
9. Americans watch an average of four hours of TV per day. Why not spend that time watching and exercising? Do floor work, sit-ups, push-ups and leg lifts to get your body moving. Add hand weights or use a stationary bicycle, treadmill or stair climber to make the most out your viewing hours.
10. You knew smoking was bad for your lungs but did you know it's also bad for your heart? Smoking increases blood pressure, decreases HDL (the good cholesterol), decreases exercise tolerance and causes fatty buildup in arteries, increasing the tendency for blood to clot. Quitting for good is good for your heart.
11. Did you know that when you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease and stroke starts to drop? After you've quit smoking, your senses of smell and taste come back, your smoker's cough goes away, your digestive system returns to normal, you feel alive and full of energy, you breathe much easier. Start your new smoke free life today.
12. There are some risk factors for heart disease that you can't control, and family history is one of them. If a close relative, like a mother, father, sister or brother had a heart attack or stroke or died of heart disease especially at a young age then the health of your heart may be at greater risk as well. Tell your doctor and get checked out.
13. The AHA recommends filling up on the good stuff! If you're watching your weight, fruits and veggies will give you vitamins, minerals and fiber with few calories and you'll feel fuller! They're low in fat and sodium and contain no cholesterol.
14. Ready to step up to a diet rich in the healthy nutrients your heart craves? Eating fish is a great way to add lean protein to your diet. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, like mackerel, lake trout, tuna and salmon are all great for your heart!
15. Do you need a little face-time with your peeps? Get your friends together for a Saturday morning walk and make your "group habit" a healthy one. Meet at the park for a walk or a hike or bike ride. Pack heart-healthy snacks and water for the day.
16. Making healthy choices when you're eating on the run is easy when you follow a few simple guidelines: try broiled, baked or steamed foods not fried; add a salad, not fries as your side order; drink skim milk not soda. These small choices can add up to big calorie savings.
17. When eating out, take portion control into your own "hands." Remember that: three ounces of meat is about the size of a deck of playing cards; 1/2 cup of fruit or pasta is about the size of a small fist; one cup is a small fist holding a tennis ball; an ounce of cheese is about the size of your thumb; a teaspoon of dressing is about the size of your thumb tip.
18. To lose a pound of fat, you have to burn 3,500 calories or eat 3,500 fewer calories. Exercises with the most calorie-burning potential: boxing, bicycling, running even belly-dancing burns more than most exercises! Try adding a few high-energy classes to your exercise routine.
19. Drop that mocha latte! There may be hidden calories and fat in your hot beverage! Many take-out beverages contain more than 300 calories per serving that's about as much as a small order of fries! Opt for small sized "skinny" or "lite" versions of your favorite drink and hold the whip cream! One tablespoon of whipped cream adds more than 50 calories and five grams of fat to your drink!
20. Are you ready for fitness at a moment's notice? Try keeping a pair of comfortable walking or running shoes in your car and office. You'll be ready for activity wherever you go! Take half of your lunch and go for a walk and watch your energy rise the rest of the day!
21. To limit the amount you eat when dining out, try these tips: order a low-fat appetizer as your meal; split an entr e with another person; cut your entr e in half as soon as you get it and ask that the other half be wrapped to go; order half-orders of pasta or "petite" cuts of meat; never super-size and add a salad as a side dish to help get your daily vegetable serving.
22. Slow down you eat too fast! You've got to make the mealtime last! It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you've been fed. By slowing down your eating your brain will realize you are fuller sooner and you won't eat as much. Try little tricks to slow yourself down such as putting your fork down between every bite.
23. Ever wonder why dancers' bodies are so strong and healthy? You don't have to be a star to dance like one! Dancing burns an average of 350 calories per hour! Do that five times a week and you'll lose a half-a-pound of fat.
24. Exercising just three to five times per week can enhance the health, academic performance, attitudes and classroom behavior of children at school. Exercising with your kids is not just the right decision, it's the smart decision.
25. More than nine million American children are overweight and 23 percent get no exercise at all. Winter is a great time to get your kids up and moving. Try taking them to an ice skating rink, bowling alley, fitness club or to a museum to keep them active on days when the weather is too harsh to play outside.
26. American children ages two to 17 spend an average of 25 hours per week watching TV that's more than any other activity except sleeping. A 15 minute family walk after dinner is a great way to connect with your kids and get them moving.
27. Studies show that for every one-hour increase in daily TV viewing by children, there were higher intakes of sugar-sweetened beverages and total calories. Add those extra calories to the "energy gap" from sitting and watching TV and video gaming, and we see a growing childhood obesity epidemic. Prevention is best. Kids should get 60 minutes of play per day!
28. Caring for a family member who is a stroke or heart disease survivor can add emotional and physical stress to your already hectic life. Taking care of yourself allows you to help care for your loved ones. For tips to help you relax, rejuvenate and replenish, visit americanheart.org/caregivers.
For more information about heart-healthy living, visit www.americanheart.org or call 877-AHA-USA1.