This February, the American Heart Association marks 50 years of the American Heart Month awareness campaign. I wish I could say that in the last half century, Americans have become a culture of super-fit exercyborgs who subsist on kale, shiitake mushrooms, and sustainably-sourced sawdust. But we’re not, and heart disease is our number one health nemesis. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to mention a few ways we writers (and everyone else) can love our hearts.
Get up, stand up: You’ve no doubt heard the news that too much sitting is worse than bacon-wrapped crack Twinkies. (Coming soon to a state fair near you!) Regular exercise does not make up for it, either. Apparently, the only cure for sitting is not sitting. Which is actually good news because it’s an easy fix, even if you don’t have a walking workstation or a personal assistant who will hold your laptop at the perfect height with one hand while tossing your kale/mushroom/sawdust salad with the other. Just stand up every twenty minutes or so and move around for a while.
Have a cuppa: I can’t write without a hot beverage, so I’m grateful that many of them have heart-healthy benefits. Research suggests that real teas (i.e. green, black, white) can improve cholesterol profiles, help prevent atherosclerosis, and lower blood pressure. Coffee, the brew of champions for writers everywhere, appears to have positive effects on blood vessels and blood flow. (It can also raise cholesterol and blood pressure, so make an informed decision that fits you.) Oh, and this probably goes without saying, but skip the added sugar.
Embrace the dark side: The flavanols in dark chocolate have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, and make platelets less sticky. Chocolate is high in potassium and magnesium, which are important minerals for cardiovascular health. Most experts recommend chocolate with at least 60% cocoa solids. (Sorry, 3 Musketeers. But I still love you, anyway.)
Breathe. And repeat: Writing can be stressful. Granted, it’s not air-traffic-control stressful. But plotting and deadlines and uncooperative characters and computer problems and people who say things like “what a fun hobby” and “have I ever heard of you?” and trying to finally earn a little money for heaven’s sake…it all adds up. Yoga is great. Meditation is great. Not everyone does those. But everyone breathes. Proper breathing is good not only for the heart and blood pressure but also the brain, digestion, and immunity. And, yes, there’s an app for that.
Do you have a healthy tip for writers?