Protect your heart this summer with these vital tips

It's summertime, the temperatures are rising and that can be hard on  your heart. Whether you are at the beach or pool, enjoying a family  picnic, taking a bike ride or at an outdoor concert, when the  temperature rises, it's important to do what you can to keep cool.  Interestingly, most of the things you can do to protect your cardiac health  during the hottest months are not only good for cardiac patients, but  they're also good for the entire family. Here are some valuable tips to  help protect your heart and assure a fun-filled summer.

Exercise with care

Research  shows that regular exercise can strengthen your heart while reducing  stress, anxiety and depression — all risk factors for heart disease.  Summer is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors and also a great  opportunity to stay heart healthy. And even if you're not a heart  patient, overweight or older than fifty, the heat of the summer can be  very dangerous if not treated with respect.

However, making sure  you're adequately prepared for whatever activity you choose can help  assure that you'll get the most benefit out of your exercise. For  example, consider exercising with a friend. Not only will it be more  fun, but it's also safer. And make sure you take frequent breaks, cool  down and rehydrate.

“A few simple precautions this summer can go a  long way in protecting yourself and your health at the same time,” says  Natalie Sellers, Vice President of Communications, Community and  Corporate Services for Parrish Healthcare.  “They include wearing the right clothes, avoiding the mid-day sun and  remembering to drink water often, even if you're not thirsty."

Prepare yourself for the sun

It's  important to dress appropriately for the summer weather, and that means  light-colored, lightweight, breathable clothes, sunglasses for eye  protection and a wide-brim hat. As well, being sure to wear  well-ventilated shoes and socks that repel perspiration. Also, remember  to apply water-resistant sunscreen with at least SPF 15 every two hours.  Keep aloe vera gel on hand for sunburn or have an aloe plant growing in  your home to soothe burns. The cooling gel inside the leaves can help  calm burns and hydrate skin.

Watch the clock

It's  best not to be outdoors when the sun is the strongest, usually between  noon and 3:00 p.m. That can keep you from putting yourself at a higher  risk of heat-related problems. Whether you're exercising, puttering in  the garden or just enjoying the summer breezes, when it gets too hot,  head inside and cool off, or take in some indoor activities at a local  recreational center. Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking water  before, during and after exercising, and try to avoid caffeine or  alcohol. For an excellent low-calorie changeup from plain water, try  adding your favorite fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, oranges,  peaches and berries or even mint or cucumber, then refrigerate for two  hours.

Put your heart into eating right

Eating healthy year-round is critical for your heart,  and it's especially important during the summer. Avocados, tomatoes,  dark leafy greens and fresh, seasonal fruit are the perfect complement  for the warm-weather months. Cookouts are the theme of summer eating,  and grilling the right foods means you can eat to your heart's content  and stay healthy.

Wild-caught fish, like salmon, is a perfect  choice for summertime grilling and a great way to get more essential  omega fatty acids. They help lower the risk of a heart attack, reduce  blood clots from forming, decrease triglycerides and hinder the growth  of plaque in the arteries.

And when it comes to snacks, why not try homemade fruit pops, refreshing, crispy vegetables, smoothies or trail mix.

"This  is the time of year that gardens and local Farmer's Markets have a wide  variety of fresh and delicious produce,” says Natalie Sellers, Vice  President of Communications, Community and Corporate Services for Parrish Healthcare. “They're perfect for quick, healthy summer recipes and salads that are easy to make and great for the heart!"

Take deep breathes and relax

Essential  to any heart health régime is taking the time to chill out and relax.  Summer is the season to slow down, absorb the stimulating light and  warmth of the sun and concentrate on being worry free and in the here  and now, without other distractions. Regardless of your summer routines,  at night, keep your room cool to make your sleep more comfortable and  get plenty of rest, at least seven hours. It's also a great time to be  with your family and friends and share the enjoyment of the outdoors.  Taking a summer attitude can help reduce your blood pressure, reduce  your stress and increase your heart health.

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