Strategies for a Healthy Heart

Apr 08, 2022

Did you know that April 7th was World Health Day? There are many initiatives that take place through the World Health Organization. As part of this week's Self-care Tips for Educators, I am going to talk about how you can implement strategies for a healthy heart. This week's topic is very personal to me.

In order to inform society, deter and avoid the impact of various diseases, the World Health Organization publishes a chart of the Top 10 Causes of Death Worldwide. Do you know what the number one cause is? 

 We have all been impacted by the number one disease, Ischaemic Heart Disease or simply Heart Disease, through the struggle of our loved ones, friends, and colleagues. It has left a lasting impression on my life as my father passed away from a coronary event in 2006. I've had other close relatives struggle with this deadly condition and I've made better choices and implemented many strategies in my life to hopefully avoid it myself. I hope this week's Self-Care Tips for Educators will inspire you to do the same. 

Heart Disease involves the reduction of blood flow to the heart muscle due to build-up of plaque (atherosclerosis) in the arteries of the heart.

A common symptom is chest pain or discomfort which may travel into the shoulder, arm, back, neck, or jaw. Occasionally it may feel like heartburn. Usually symptoms occur with exercise or emotional stress, last less than a few minutes, and improve with rest.  Shortness of breath may also occur and sometimes no symptoms are present. And, as you may know, heart disease is a silent killer for women. 

Risk factors include chronic stress, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, lack of exercise, obesity, high blood cholesterol, poor diet, depression, and excessive alcohol.

These risk factors are important to note relative to educator wellness, well-being and self-care. When you are on the reactivity wheel day in and day out, it's important to stop and take note of your health and wellness. 

It is within our control to take action and make improvements - it is never too late! So what can you do about it? Two main methods within your control are diet and physical activity! 

  • Diet. Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat make your blood cholesterol level rise. Saturated fat is the main problem, but cholesterol in foods also matters. Reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level. Foods that have high levels of saturated fats include some meats, dairy products, chocolate (sugar!), baked goods (sugar!), and deep-fried and processed foods (sugar!). Decrease the amount of sugar you consume through liquids (soda and juice, sports drinks) and increase the amount of water you drink daily. Schools are filled with sugar and candy - make a pledge to decrease the amount of sugar and unhealthy treats that are available.
  • Physical Activity. Not being physically active is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It also helps you lose weight. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days. 

As part of your self-care and wellness plan (if you bring Joyful Educator Lab to your school district through one of our Quarterly or Year-Long Educator Well-being programs - all educators create a self-care and wellness action plan! It is amazing to see educators prioritize their well-being through our action planning process!)

Another important lifestyle change to consider: 

  • Managing stress. Research has shown that chronic stress can sometimes raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL cholesterol. With the current educational landscape it's important to note the impact of stress, chronic stress, burnout and other stress factors on educators. Consider the following to help manage stress:
    • Yoga
    • Meditation
    • A daily mantra
    • Gardening
    • Taking a non-negotiable break between each meeting
    • Journaling

All of these components and additional strategies are discussed as part of the Wellness Module and action planning process during the Joyful Educator Lab Year-long or Quarterly implementation model. 

Every day we have the opportunity to make choices that support our health, happiness, and well-being. What can you commit to today in order to improve your heart health and overall wellness? 

Are you like me and need a little accountability? When I find myself less healthy eating choices or not working out as often as I should, a strategy that I've used to keep track of my health and wellness over the years is this DIETMINDER Personal Food & Fitness Journal (A Food and Exercise Diary). I encourage you to use it to document your 30 minutes of exercise per day, daily water intake, healthy meals and snacks. 

If this has been interesting to you and you would like to learn how you can support the wellness and well-being of the educators in your school district through our comprehensive educator well-being program, consider joining me for a complimentary webinar on April 14th. Designed for school and district-level decision makers you will learn about our quarterly and year-long educator well-being program options (and more). Learn more and register HERE!

About the Author: Lisa Imel, M.Ed is the Founder & Chief Educational Consultant of EdSolutions Group. Lisa specializes in Human Potential, Learning & Development, Workforce & Economic Development, and K-16 Education Strategy. Several of Ms. Imel’s notable achievements include being awarded the distinguished Fulbright Scholarship, participation in the Argentina Fulbright Principal Exchange, serving as an Ohio Leadership Advisory Council Facilitator, appointed as a Trustee at St. Joseph Montessori School and recognition as a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club of Cleveland. Ms. Imel graduated from Bowling Green State University and The University of Toledo and earned her Principal and Superintendent Licensure at Ursuline College and Ohio University. Lisa currently serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Ashland University in the Professional Development Services Department. As a former teacher, principal and curriculum coordinator, Lisa is a passionate advocate for educators and believes in delivering transformative experiences so that educators, students and families lead happier, healthier and more meaningful lives. 
Resources: World Health Organization [Internet] & MedlinePlus.Gov

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