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The Truth Behind the Ticker

February is American Heart Month—the perfect time to commit or recommit to lifestyle measures that will keep your cardiovascular system humming along for years to come, allowing you to live the life you want. Show your heart a lot of love with these six strategies, endorsed by the American Heart Association (AHA), the Cleveland Clinic (America’s #1 heart hospital) and backed by years of research. The best part? You can do it all at Curves.

1. Exercise

Your heart is a muscle and like any muscle in your body, it gets stronger through exercise. Studies show that regular physical activity helps lower blood pressure, reduce LDL (bad cholesterol), and raise HDL (good cholesterol). Exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight and blood sugar levels, and both obesity and diabetes are significant risk factors for heart disease. At Curves, you get a strength and cardio workout in only 30 minutes—no excuse not to exercise!

2. Eat a Heart-Smart Diet

Be wise when it comes to fat. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats (look for partially hydrogenated vegetable oils on the nutrition labels of baked goods), which can raise cholesterol levels. Instead choose foods made with olive, canola, and peanut oils—monounsaturated fats—which raise good cholesterol. But do so in moderation; all fats are high in calories. In addition, eat fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and tuna, once or twice a week. Omega-3s help lower artery-clogging triglycerides, reduce inflammation inside the body that can damage blood vessels, and help lower blood pressure. Flaxseed, almonds, and walnuts also contain omega-3s, but fish produces a greater effect. Just say no to blood-pressure-raising sodium. The AHA recommends no more than 2,300 mg a day (the amount in 1 teaspoon of salt) and ideally would like most adults to limit sodium to 1,500 mg a day. Do eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, which are high in nutrients and fiber and generally low in calories. Curves Nutrition Program offers a coach who is trained in nutrition and can help you plan menus that target heart health.

3. Don’t Skimp on Sleep

More than a third of adults in the U.S. do not get the recommended 7 hours of sleep a night according to the Centers for Disease Control, and, yes, sleep deprivation puts you at risk for heart disease, even if you exercise and maintain your optimal weight. Evidence lies in data showing that women and men who suffer sleep apnea often have poor heart health. Researchers don’t fully understand why lack of sleep leads to cardiovascular disease, but they speculate that sleeping too little disrupts underlying biological functions and doesn’t allow heart rate and blood pressure to remain low for an extended period of time, which means your cardiovascular system doesn’t get optimal rest. Regular Curves workouts can help improve the quantity and quality of your sleep.

4. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Obesity, defined as a BMI over 30, raises blood pressure and cholesterol and increases your risk of diabetes, all of which ups your odds for heart disease. And obesity independently is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Regular physical activity, a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep all contribute significantly to good weight management. At your Monthly Coaching Sessions at Curves, you’ll meet one-on-one with your Coach to help you reach your goals and maintain a healthy body weight.

5. Find Relief from Stress

Stress can wreak havoc on your life and health, especially when it is chronic. It can raise your blood pressure, and stress hormones may be harmful to your arteries. Stress can also lead to behaviors such as overeating and drinking, which then can damage heart health. Although it’s unavoidable, there are healthy lifestyle habits you can do to help protect stress’ effects on you. Try meditation practices to help manage your stress. Physical activity has a direct stress-lowering effect and stimulates the release of endorphins—mood-boosting hormones. In addition, regular physical activity can boost your confidence and help you feel more in control of your life. Curves provides a total body workout in only 30 minutes to help you meet the experts’ recommendations. Add the company of friends and you have the perfect solution for stress reduction.

6. Spend time with friends

Studies show that people who have friends live longer, happier, healthier lives than those who don’t and are at a reduced risk for health problems including cardiovascular disease. Researchers believe—and you likely know this from your own experience—friends help relieve stress, which can harm coronary arteries. Not only do Curves’ staff and coaches warmly welcome you to the club every time you walk in the door, but as a member, you gain friends and become part of a community of supportive women striving together to improve their lives.

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