Contributor: Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND
I was born on Valentine’s Day and am mildly obsessed with all matters of the heart, especially heart health. I’ve lived well with type 1 diabetes for nearly 41 years, and I plan to continue doing so by focusing on the powerful heart health benefits of Rest, Exercise, and Diet (R.E.D.).
Are you getting enough good quality sleep?
Research by the American Heart Association shows that women who get too little sleep or who get poor quality sleep have a greater risk of heart disease. Poor sleep quality may contribute to higher blood pressure as well as a decreased desire to exercise or eat healthfully. If you wake up feeling rested, you’re likely getting enough good quality sleep. But if you have trouble getting out of bed each day or you feel exhausted throughout the day, you should talk to your doctor. Being well-rested has so many benefits; don’t wait to make this a priority in caring for your heart.
Are you getting enough enjoyable physical activity?
Marie Kondo, the world-renowned home organizing expert, says, “Discard everything that does not spark joy.” This is my motto when it comes to exercise. I focus only on physical activity that brings me joy. This includes listening to my favorite music when I walk outside or lift weights at the gym, wearing clothes that make me feel good when I go to gentle yoga, or watching my favorite Food Network shows (I adore Guy Fieri!) when I walk on the treadmill at the gym. I also love going to the gym and playing golf with my husband; he can always make me laugh, no matter what else is going on in the world or in my life.
So how much exercise is enough? I try to engage in physical activity every day. Some days this is a quick 10-minute walk on the treadmill, while other days, it involves a leisurely trip to my favorite yoga studio. Again, I focus on what brings me joy and not a magical number of minutes, reps, or other tedious counting. Diabetes has me counting in so many other ways; focusing on breathing deeply, smiling widely, and laughing often are better indicators of success with my workouts. Oh, and did I mention that when I get more physical activity in my life, I also get more and better-quality sleep. It’s a win-win for me and my heart.
Are you getting enough happiness-promoting fruits and vegetables?
Research from the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) shows that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables not only feel healthier but also happier. We’ve known for decades that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables in all forms - fresh, frozen, canned, dried, and 100% juice - have the lowest risk of heart disease. But this new research from PBH, published in 2018, shows that people who shop for, prepare, order, and eat the most fruits and vegetables feel happier and more confident than people who eat the least fruits and vegetables. Try adding another fruit or vegetable to each meal or snack. Your heart will thank you.
Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND is a farmer’s daughter from North Dakota, award-winning dietitian, culinary nutrition expert, and founder and president of Farmer’s Daughter Consulting, Inc. She is the director of The Culinary Institute of America Healthy Menus R&D Collaborative and a consultant for the Produce for Better Health Foundation. You can learn more about her business at www.farmersdaughterconsulting.com, and you can follow her insights on food and flavor on social media @AmyMyrdalMiller.