Inadequate sleep can lead to anxiety, overeating, high blood pressure, difficulty concentrating, and other problems.

To conclude American Heart Month, we’re featuring ten health tips that were presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital women’s health experts, Dr. JoAnne Foody and Dr. Paula Johnson, at the Boston Go Red for Women Educational Forum. (Go Red for Women, sponsored by the American Heart Association, occurs each February to educate all women about the need to take care of their hearts.)

Men take note, these tips can benefit you, too – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Check back with us as we publish new tips through the end of February.

4. PREVENT DIABETES.

Patients with diabetes take longer to heal from injuries than those without. Diabetes can cause heart attack, stroke, kidney problems, impaired vision, and neuropathy. Although diabetes can come from a genetic predisposition, a high-sugar diet and lack of exercise are modifiable risk factors. Exercise, even without associated weight loss, can improve the body’s glucose control. Studies show that physical activity decreases your risk of diabetes. One hundred and fifty minutes per week (or just 30 minutes per day on weekdays) can reduce your risk of getting diabetes or reduce dependence on medications if you already have diabetes.

It’s never too late. If you have diabetes, you can still exercise. Just make sure you check your blood sugars regularly and be honest with your doctor about your exercise level. Together, you can come up with a plan to balance your exercise level and medications to help with blood sugar control.

TIP:  Use a pedometer!  It is much more fun to count steps than carbohydrates.  If you like the sweet stuff, try to avoid snacks with high sugar content, as they don’t make you feel full.

5. GET ENOUGH SLEEP!

Lack of sleep is associated with many problems. It can lead to difficulty concentrating throughout your day, anxiety, over-eating, high blood pressure, and more. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Exercise and activity can help with sleep as well.

TIP:  Having a routine before bedtime will help you get to sleep.

6. UNDERSTAND STRESS.

We’re learning more about the power of stress, anxiety, depression, and social isolation on our health. These conditions make it harder to both adopt and maintain healthy behaviors and adhere to clinical recommendations. We now know that these conditions also can directly influence the levels of important hormones in our bodies and even the way our blood clots and our blood vessels expand and contract. Physicians often fail to recognize or ask about these stress-related conditions, so they frequently go undiagnosed and unaddressed.

TIPS:

  • Tell your health care provider if you’re stressed, anxious, or “blue.” Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed – an estimated 20 percent of all patients in primary care practices feel this way!
  • Find constructive ways to relieve stress. Regular exercise, yoga, and t’ai chi are all effective antidepressants.
  • Make it a priority to keep your relationships healthy and stay connected. Join a book club. Do volunteer work at a school hospital. Get involved in causes you believe in.

*Come back tomorrow for more health tips from Dr. Foody and Dr. Johnson.

Other health tips from Dr. Foody and Dr. Johnson:

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