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woman checks heart rate while on a run

Take Steps to Benefit Your Heart

February 6, 2023

Take Steps to Benefit Your Heart

The AFT provides staff with monthly health and wellness tips, and now they are sharing them with the Share My Lesson community too! In recognition of American Heart Month, February's issue offers tips to help your heart health.


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On Target

Walking the dog, doing housework or stretching during the day are all good physical activities. To be sure that you are doing activities that are good for your heart, while staying at a level that is safe for you, aim for a “target heart rate”. This range of numbers is the sweet spot that reflects how fast your heart should be beating to get the most from your work out while not overexerting yourself. To measure your heart rate, simply check your pulse by placing your index and third fingers on your neck to the side of your windpipe or place two fingers on the thumb side of your wrist. Count the number of beats in a minute. You can also wear a fitness tracking device or use a treadmill or other machine that calculates your heart rate. Once you know how to take your heart rate, use these steps to monitor your heart rate:

Find your resting heart rate.

Measure your heart rate when you’re at rest. A good time to check is in the morning after you’ve had a good night’s sleep and before you have any coffee.

Know your maximum and target heart rate.

The chart below shows average figures to use as a general guide from the American Heart Association. In the age category closes to yours, read across to find out your target heart rates

Resting heart rate chart

Hit The Target.

As you exercise, periodically check your heart rate. If your heart rate is too high, lower the intensity of your work out. If it is too low, you may want to push yourself to exercise a little harder. If you are just starting out, the American Heart Association recommends aiming for the lower range of your target zone and to gradually build up.

Cooking Tips to Benefit Your Heart

Start buying and cooking foods that benefit your body and mind. If you don’t bring it home, you can’t eat it.
Use these tips to inspire heart healthy habits in the kitchen:

  1. Meal plan. Save time and money by mapping out a week’s worth of delicious meals.
  2. Prepare a meal with vegetables. Pick 2 or 3 vegetables to steam or stir-fry as a main meal.
  3. Use healthy vegetable oils such as canola, olive, safflower or sunflower, instead of butter, lard and tropical oils.
  4. Choose healthier meats and proteins, like chicken, turkey, fish and beans.
  5. Give healthy cooking techniques a try. Bake, broil, grill, roast, sauté, steam or stir fry instead of smothering foods in flour, salt and fat.

Have fun in the kitchen. Experiment with new dishes and make creating meals into an experience to enjoy
with loved ones.

Enjoying a Snack

Snacking is consuming food between meals. Snack foods don’t have to refer to highly processed or high calorie items. Eating healthier foods as a snack is better than letting yourself become ravenously hungry.

A Few Tips for Healthy Snacking are:

  • Size of snack. In general, healthy snacks provide about 200 calories and at least 10 grams of protein to help stay full between meals.
  • Frequency of snacking. Depending on your activity level and meal size, limit to 1-2 snacks per day.
  • Where to snack. Portable snacks can go with you wherever you are in case hunger strikes.

Healthy Snack Ideas Include:

  • Mixed nuts.
  • Veggies with guacamole or hummus.
  • Greek yogurt and berries.
  • A piece of fruit.
  • String cheese.
  • Hard boiled eggs.

Nutritious snack options can help with cravings, curb hunger and boost energy between meals

Recipe of the Month

Caprese kabobs

Caprese Kabobs

Grape or cherry tomatoes
Fresh mozzarella, cut into ½ inch cubes
Fresh basil leaves
Balsamic vinegar

Skewer on toothpick fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cubes and basil. Drizzle with balsamic.

Courage to Change

All changes, whether positive or negative can be stressful and impact our well-being. Fortunately, there are ways to adapt to unavoidable life transitions without our world turning upside down. When we focus on the things we can control and let go of what is out of our control, adjusting becomes manageable and sometimes even enjoyable.

Tools for Adapting Include:

  • Take things one day at a time. Change takes time, but the journey is often what makes us happier and stronger people.
  • Accept the circumstances. What has happened, has happened. Experience the feelings of discomfort while accepting our new reality.
  • Take action. Once we have paused to accept the fact of a new situation, we can decide what to do about it with confidence. This empowering step makes choice possible. This may mean adjusting our schedule around the new transition.

Stay Positive

Focus on gratitude instead of fears. It’s valuable to be aware that nearly all experiences have both “positive” and “negative” aspects. Gratitude is about feeling and expressing appreciation for all we have and all that has happened to us. Try writing down, daily, three things you are grateful for. Noting what you are grateful for can help you lower stress, feel calmer, and focus on what really matters

Join the Health & Wellness Community

We are bringing fitness instructors, social-emotional and mental health leaders, and nutritionists together so we can collectively “workout” and de-stress our bodies and our minds. 

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The AFT was formed by teachers more than 100 years ago and is now a 1.7 million-member union of professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities. We are... See More

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