Updated: Jan 26, 2022
February is the month of the heart: American Heart Month, Valentine's Day, and National Random Act of Kindness Day.
February is known as American Heart month. There are many initiatives to help people improve their physical heart health. As an Occupational Therapist, I take a slightly different view. Occupational Therapy is all about balance. There are so many reasons to keep you heart physically healthy, but it's important to stay emotionally healthy as well. Mental health directly impacts not only our heart health, but also our whole body health.
See below for ideas to celebrate the month of the heart.
Tip #1 - Get social
Studies have found that social isolation and loneliness can directly increase a person's risk of developing coronary artery disease and stroke by as much as 29-30%. Staying socially active not only reduces risk of heart disease, but improves overall physical and mental health. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has reduced physical activity for many people, but it's time to make socializing a priority. If you can't be out with your friends or family in person, try finding ways to engage virtually. Also, by getting vaccinated you will reduce your risk of serious illness if you contract COVID-19. This also improves your safety when you are engaging in your community.
Take a friend out
Try going out for lunch on a weekday when it is less crowded.
Go out for a cup of coffee to catch up.
The St. Louis Art and History museum offer events in person and online ( These are good options for staying socially distanced and masked).
Go see a movie (a matinee offers smaller crowds).
Tip #2 - Self-care Sunday
The National Institute of Health suggests implementing "Self-Care Sunday". One of the barriers to self-care is making and taking the time. Try carving out 30 mins on Sunday to plan self-care activities throughout the week. Reflect on what self-care means to you.
"“Studies show self-care routines, such as taking a daily walk and keeping doctor’s appointments, help us keep our blood pressure in the healthy range and reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke,” said David Goff, M.D., NHLBI’s director of cardiovascular sciences.
Tip #3 - Educate yourself
Take control of your health and educate yourself! Talk to your doctor and get to know your numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and blood sugar). Although heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide - in most cases it is preventable (heart.org) when people adopt a healthy lifestyle. It can be helpful to write out a list of questions and concerns for your doctor before your appointment.
"Heart disease continues to be the greatest health threat to Americans and is still the leading cause of death worldwide, according to the AHA's Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2021 Update." heart.org
Tip #4 - Move more
Exercise can do amazing things for your heart health, but the benefits of exercise go far beyond your heart. Exercise can help reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol, and reduce risk of diabetes (which is a leading risk factor for heart disease). Exercise also helps reduce depression, control weight, and keep up your physical strength and balance (reduces your risk of falls). Try following these ABC's when starting an exercise routine (hopkinsmedical.org).
A - Aim for 30 mins of exercise a day, but do what you can do. Even bursts of 10-15 mins of activity is helpful.
B - Before you start, ask your doctor.
C - Chart your progress. It is hard to start a new routine. Keeping task of what are doing can be motivating and show progress.
D - Different types of exercise or activity helps keep things interesting. Aerobic exercise like walking or using a bike can be mixed up with strength training or stretching.
E- Exercise in ways you love! Do what motivates you and what you enjoy. You are more likely to keep up with a routine that you enjoy.
Tip #5 - Spread kindness
February 17th is National Act of Kindness Day. The past few years have been hard for everyone. Science shows us that practicing kindness can increase the love hormone, energy, happiness, lifespan, pleasure, and serotonin (the feel-good hormone). Kindness can also decrease pain, stress, anxiety, blood pressure, and depression (The Random Act of Kindness Foundation).
“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” (Mark Twain)
What the World Needs Now, Is Love Sweet Love
Love is love. As we age, the need for love does not change. February is a perfect time to practice the art of self-love, and love for family and friends.
I want to take this opportunity to show my appreciation and gratitude for all of you who have supported me on this business adventure. I truly appreciate all of the health care professionals who have been so supportive and the clients who have made my work so enjoyable!
A shout out to my new practice manager Michele! I appreciate all of your help and insight. You are all a blessing and your help has made such a difference to IOTS!
Thank you all for your support,
Jenny Williams, OT
References and Resources