6 Steps to Get Better Sleep and Improve Heart Health
(Family Features) There’s more to maintaining a healthy heart than just eating right and exercising regularly. While these practices play an important role in both cardiovascular and overall health and well-being, getting a good night’s sleep is also key.
“Getting a good night’s sleep every night is vital to cardiovascular health,” said Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M., FAHA, past volunteer president of the American Heart Association and chair of the department of preventive medicine, the Eileen M. Foell Professor of Heart Research and professor of preventive medicine, medicine and pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “Adults should aim for an average of 7-9 hours, and babies and kids need more depending on their age.”
However, more than 1 in 3 adults in the United States are not getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition to increasing risk for cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack and stroke, lack of sleep may also put people at risk of depression, cognitive decline, diabetes and obesity.
While high blood pressure – a known risk factor of cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 cause of death worldwide – can run in families, it is more common in non-Hispanic Black adults (56%) than in non-Hispanic white adults (48%), non-Hispanic Asian adults (46%) or Hispanic adults (39%). Healthy lifestyle behaviors, including sleep, can help prevent the condition.
“We know that people who get adequate sleep manage other health factors better as well, such as weight, blood sugar and blood pressure,” Lloyd-Jones said. “The American Heart Association added sleep to the list of factors that support optimal cardiovascular health. We call these Life’s Essential 8, and they include: eating a healthy diet, not smoking or vaping, being physically active and getting adequate sleep along with controlling your blood pressure and maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol and lipids, healthy blood sugar levels and a healthy weight.”
What’s more, falling asleep at different times or sleeping an inconsistent number of hours each night, even variations of more than two hours a night within the same week, may also increase the risk of atherosclerosis, which is a cardiovascular condition where plaque builds up in the arteries, in those age 45 and older, according to research published in the “Journal of the American Heart Association.”
“Maintaining regular sleep schedules and decreasing variability in sleep is an easily adjustable lifestyle behavior that can not only help improve sleep, but also help reduce cardiovascular risk for aging adults,” said study lead author Kelsie Full, Ph.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of medicine in the division of epidemiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Education about healthy heart habits from the American Heart Association is nationally supported by Elevance Health Foundation. Some practices to improve sleep health and impact heart health include:
Observe Current Sleep Habits
Keeping a sleep diary to help track your sleep patterns and habits can make it easier to identify factors that may be helping – or hurting – your sleep quality. Monitor what time you go to bed, what time you wake up in the morning, how many times you woke up during the night, how you felt when you woke up and any variables, such as changes to your routine or sleeping arrangements. Having documentation over the course of several weeks can help you identify necessary changes.
Avoid Food and Beverage Close to Bedtime
It can be more difficult to fall asleep if you’re still digesting dinner. To help reduce sleep disruptions caused by food, avoid late dinners and minimize fatty and spicy foods. Similarly, keep an eye on caffeine intake and avoid it later in the day when it can be a barrier to falling asleep.
Physical activity during the day can have a noticeable impact on overall health and wellness but can also make it easier to sleep at night as it can initiate changes in energy use and body temperature. However, exercising too close to bedtime may hinder your body’s ability to settle; aim to have your workout complete at least four hours before you plan to head to bed.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
Getting a good night’s rest often requires getting into a routine. Start by setting an alarm to indicate it’s time to start winding down. Rather than heading straight to bed, take time to create a to-do list for the following day and knock out a few small chores. Then consider implementing a calming activity like meditating, journaling or reading (not on a tablet or smartphone) before drifting off to sleep. Also set an alarm to wake each morning, even on weekends, and avoid hitting the snooze button to keep your biological rhythms synced.
Create a Comfortable Sleep Space
The ideal space for sleeping is dark, quiet and a comfortable temperature, typically around 65 F depending on the individual. Use room-darkening curtains or a sleep mask to block light and ear plugs, a fan or a white noise machine to help drown out distracting noises. Remember, using your bed only for sleep and sex can help establish a strong mental association between your bed and sleep.
Avoid Tech Before Bed
The bright light of televisions, computers and smartphones can mess with your Circadian rhythm and keep you alert when you should be winding down. Try logging off electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime and use the “do not disturb” function to avoid waking up to your phone throughout the night. Better yet, charge devices away from your bed or in another room entirely.
Find more tips to take control of your blood pressure and create healthy sleep habits at Heart.org.
American Heart Association
A Cleaner Way to Cook
4 benefits of cooking with propane-powered appliances
(Family Features) If you’ve made a lifestyle choice to eat cleaner, you may have lots of ideas for the kinds of foods you’ll eat. What you may not have considered is how the energy you use to prepare those foods can factor into cleaner living, too.
Chef Dean Sheremet partnered with the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) to educate families about cooking clean, healthy meals with an environmentally friendly, low-carbon energy source that is made in the United States and available right now: propane.
Propane is already powering more than 12 million homes with reliable energy homeowners can count on. According to PERC, there are numerous benefits of cooking with propane, from managing emissions to a more satisfactory cooking experience.Visit propane.com/chefdean for additional propane cooking tips and tasty recipes.
Reduced Emissions – Using propane in the kitchen can make a big impact for a family that is working to reduce its carbon footprint. On average, propane cooking results in lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than electric cooking. That’s because more than 60% of electricity production comes from natural gas- or coal-powered generation plants, which release more CO2 emissions.
Stylish, Multi-Function Appliances – Propane-powered cooking appliances provide convenience, modern design and excellent performance in kitchens from starter homes to high-end custom builds. In fact, propane-powered cooktops are preferred by 96% of professional chefs. It’s common to find features like griddle and grill features on propane ranges and cooktops, along with warming drawers and ovens with convection and steam settings.
Precise Temperature Control – Propane ranges, cooktops and ovens allow for greater control of heat levels from searing to simmering. Instant-on burners allow cooking to start right away, and propane burners are also instant-off, helping the stove to cool faster than many traditional electric stoves that remain hot to the touch well after they’ve been turned off.
Reliable Meal Preparation – Diversifying your energy mix and incorporating propane for appliances like your cooktop reduces the strain on the electric grid. Plus, propane is a stable energy source that is stored on-site, meaning you can keep preparing hot meals for your family even when the electric grid fails due to weather-related events or other outages.
Propane Education & Research Council
Plant-Forward Picnic Recipes Perfect for Spring
(Family Features) Between the welcome warmth of the sun’s rays and a nearly universal desire to get outdoors, springtime is a beloved season for enjoying an al fresco meal. Add in fresh produce to heighten the flavors of family favorites and the table is set for a delicious picnic.
Whether your warm-weather adventures take you to a nearby park, a neighbor’s patio or simply your own backyard, satisfying those spring cravings often starts with plant-forward dishes. From tomatoes and onions to mushrooms, Brussels sprouts and other fruits and veggies, you can rely on Mother Nature to give picnic recipes a boost.
For example, these fresh ideas from Aramark’s Feed Your Potential program offer easy solutions to take your loved ones outdoors for a meal all can enjoy. As a popular springtime lunch, sandwiches provide the opportunity to customize servings according to each person’s preferences.
These Portobello Mozzarella Sandwiches are a plant-forward version loaded with grilled mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, pesto mayo, arugula and a balsamic glaze on ciabatta rolls. For an added touch of freshness, a homemade tomato bruschetta topping combines tomatoes, red onions, basil and more to capitalize on a peak produce season.
No picnic is complete without a side that perfectly complements the main course. For a delicious solution that’s fast and easy to make, try a new twist on an al fresco classic: coleslaw. A healthy accompaniment to the sandwiches, this Apricot Brussels Sprouts Coleslaw is an ideal spring dish that calls for less than 10 ingredients and requires simple prep so you can make it fresh before heading out the door.Visit Aramark’s Feed Your Potential website, fyp365.com, to find more picnic-worthy recipe ideas.
Portobello Mozzarella Sandwiches
Recipe courtesy of Aramark
Tomato Bruschetta Topping:
- 1/4 pound fresh plum tomatoes, cored and diced
- 2 tablespoons red onion, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 pinch ground black pepper
- 1 pinch fresh garlic, peeled and finely minced
- 1 pound fresh portobello mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed, sliced thin
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 1/2 tablespoons prepared basil pesto
- 4 ciabatta rolls (4-by-4 inches), split in half
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced small
- 4 ounces tomato bruschetta topping
- 2 ounces fresh baby arugula
- 1/4 cup balsamic glaze
- To make tomato bruschetta topping: In bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, basil, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Set aside.
- To make sandwiches: Preheat grill pan or grill to medium heat.
- Toss sliced mushrooms with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
- Grill mushrooms until fork-tender, 3-4 minutes on each side. Let cool.
- Mix mayonnaise with pesto until combined. Spread 2 tablespoons pesto mayonnaise on cut sides of each roll.
- For each sandwich, layer 1/4 of grilled mushrooms, mozzarella slices, tomato bruschetta topping, arugula and balsamic glaze.
- Top with other roll halves. Cut diagonally in half to serve.
Apricot Brussels Sprouts Coleslaw
Recipe courtesy of Aramark
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cups trimmed and shredded Brussels sprouts
- 1 cup dried apricot, diced
- 1 cup red onion, trimmed and diced
- Combine mustard, honey, sugar, salt and pepper. Mix well.
- Add Brussels sprouts, apricot and onion; toss to coat.