couple-walking

As springtime blossoms into longer and warmer days, it’s the perfect time to tweak or add some heart healthy behaviors to your daily routine. The fact that the American Heart Association (AHA) ranks heart disease and stroke as the nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers should be motivation enough. But, since it’s such an easy thing to do, there really is no excuse. Addressing ways that families can stay heart healthy, family practice physician Martina P. Callum, M.D. says, “Really, it starts with lifestyle changes and looking at their diet.” She adds, with a sigh, “I’m not talking quantity.”

In other words, Callum is talking about the quality of foods eaten and says that consuming foods that are fatty and/or high in cholesterol is directly related to heart disease. She says that people’s diets need more fruits, green leafy vegetables and root vegetables that have been properly prepared. And, eating properly prepared foods in moderation includes limiting salt intake.

Apparently, the AHA is in agreement with her assessment, and is making it easy for individuals and groups to learn how to prepare heart healthy meals in Baltimore. The organization is celebrating its oneyear anniversary of offering a variety of cooking classes at its Simple Cooking with Heart Kitchen, located downtown at Stratford University. For a nominal fee, participants learn to cook a meal for four, which they carry home, once prepared. So, for those with cooking limitations, make it easy on yourself, and visit www. heart.org/baltimorekitchen.

While modifying one’s diet will help, adding physical activity to the equation will increase the benefits. Everyone, including First Lady Michelle Obama, is encouraging people of all ages to get moving and involved in some kind of physical activity. It’s not always necessary to go work out at the gym. Family walks can be great exercise and lots of fun. And, April 1 is AHA’s National Walking Day, perfect timing to bring the family together for a trek.

Now that you’re eating and exercising properly, managing your weight and stress will become a little easier. Callum explains that people with bad eating and exercise habits, generally, don’t feel well and often suffer with joint pain, heartburn and other discomforts, which is stressful. “Physically, when you are feeling good, you can handle stress, better,” she says.