The Importance of Mental Wellness for a Healthy Heart and Brain
(Family Features) Research shows anxiety, stress and depression can have a negative impact on physical health and may even increase the risk for heart disease and stroke.
In fact, the American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health, identified a strong interconnection between the mind, heart and body in its scientific statement, “Psychological Health, Well-Being and the Mind-Heart-Body Connection.”
“Research has clearly demonstrated negative psychological factors, personality traits and mental health disorders can negatively impact cardiovascular health,” said volunteer chair of the statement writing committee Glenn N. Levine, M.D., FAHA, master clinician and professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of the cardiology section at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. “The body’s biological reaction to stress, anxiety and other types of poor mental health can manifest physically through an irregular heart rate or rhythm, increased blood pressure and inflammation throughout the body. Negative psychological health is also associated with health behaviors that are linked to an increased risk for heart disease and stroke, such as smoking, lower levels of physical activity, unhealthy diet, being overweight and not taking medications as prescribed.”
Studies have found some people, including people of color, may face a greater risk of poor health outcomes due to chronic stress, depression and anxiety linked to psychosocial stressors, particularly those related to social and economic inequality, discrimination, systemic racism and other societal factors. A study published in the “Journal of the American Heart Association” found U.S. adults who reported feeling highly discriminated against at work had an increased risk of developing high blood pressure compared to those who reported low discrimination at work.
“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being,” Levine said. “It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Practicing mindfulness in all forms allows one to be more aware of and have more control over emotional responses to the experiences of daily life.”
Consider these tips from Levine to improve your mind-heart-body connection:
- Practice meditation regularly. Even simple actions such as communing with nature or sitting quietly and focusing on your breath can have a positive impact.
- Get plenty of good, restful sleep. Set a regular bedtime, turn off or dim electronics as bedtime approaches and form a wakeup routine.
- Make connections and stay in touch. Reach out and connect regularly with family and friends, or engage in activities to meet new people.
- Practice mindful movement. There are many types of gentle mindful practices like yoga and Tai chi that can be done about anywhere with no special equipment to help ease your soul and muscles.
- Spend time with your furry friend. Companion animals are often beloved members of the family and research shows pets may help reduce physiological reactions to stress as well as support improved physical activity.
- Work it out. Regular physical activity – a recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity, 75 minutes of vigorous activity or a mix of both weekly – can help relieve tension, anxiety and depression, and give you an immediate exercise “high.”
“Wellness is more than simply the absence of disease,” Levine said. “It is an active process directed toward a healthier, happier and more fulfilling life. When we strive to reduce negative aspects of psychological health, we are promoting an overall positive and healthy state of being.”
Learn more about the importance of heart health at heart.org.
American Heart Association
Move All Summer Long: 5 activities to keep children active
(Family Features) Everybody, no matter their age, can benefit from daily physical activity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), young children should be physically active throughout the day for growth and development. Despite the common misconception that children are in perpetual motion, the CDC reminds caregivers to encourage children to be active when they play.
“Physical activity is important because it is critical in assisting with gross motor development and helps support development in other areas,” said Khy Sline from KinderCare Learning Center’s education team. “Children thrive when we give them the tools to use their bodies and muscles in new ways and make mind-body connections.”
Consider these five activities to encourage children to get moving.
Blow bubbles. Appealing to children from infancy on up, seeing bubbles floating around can encourage babies to reach out and try to grab them, building arm strength and coordination. Toddlers and older children can run around the patio or lawn chasing bubbles and watching them pop.
Build a tunnel. Whether indoors or out, made from furniture covered with sheets or cardboard boxes, tunnels encourage children to move over, under, around and through, which helps them explore new ways of moving while also building coordination and balance.
Play hide and seek. As they dash around trying to find the perfect hiding spot, children build spatial awareness, their understanding of where their bodies are in relation to other people and objects.
Play red light, green light. This classic game helps children build coordination – connecting the verbal instruction with the physical movement – while also teaching them impulse control, an essential executive function skill. Be sure to get creative with instructions and add variations like tip-toeing, crawling, hopping and more.
Walk the line. Draw a line on the ground using chalk outdoors or painter’s tape indoors and encourage your children to walk along the line. This activity helps children improve balance and coordination. Get creative and add in a challenge by drawing a wavy or zig-zag line. Once your children get the hang of following the line, ask them to think of other ways to travel along that space, such as hopping on one foot or skipping.
For more ideas to encourage physical activity among children, visit kindercare.com.
Fuel Up for Summer Fun
(Family Features) Summer sun brings an abundance of outdoor activities from jumping in the pool and playing in the yard to simply lounging in the shade. Making the most of those warm weather moments with loved ones means maximizing your time and fueling up for adventure with easy, kid-friendly recipes the whole family can enjoy.
From favorite snacks to homemade lunches, flavorful dishes that are quick to make using nutritious fruits and veggies can help keep your family ready for whatever summer brings. Dietitian-approved recipes like Peanut Butter and Jelly Sweetpotato Taquitos and Easy Homemade Salsa offer better-for-you summer solutions with healthy ingredients like sweetpotatoes, blueberries, raspberries, sweet onions, Roma tomatoes and more.
Ready in less than 30 minutes, these taquitos let you enjoy the convenient benefits of cooking with an air fryer, including:
- Healthier cooking: Requiring little to no oil, air frying is a healthier alternative to deep frying.
- Timesaving: Air fryers can cook foods faster than traditional methods and typically with less cleanup.
- Versatility: From vegetables and meats to desserts or reheating leftovers, air fryers can cook a variety of foods.
“Get into the kitchen together as a family and get cooking,” said Julie Lopez, registered dietitian and culinary nutrition chef. “Cooking together can help kids build self-confidence and lay down the foundation for healthy eating habits.”
While shopping for your family’s preferred ingredients, remember to look for the Produce for Kids and Healthy Family Project logos next to favorite items in the produce department, as adding these flavorful fruits and veggies to your cart can help make a difference in your community.
Visit HealthyFamilyProject.com to find more summer recipe inspiration.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sweetpotato Taquitos
Recipe courtesy of Tracy Shaw on behalf of Healthy Family Project
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
- 1 cup sweetpotatoes, peeled and diced small
- nonstick olive oil spray
- 1/2 cup peanut butter, preferred nut butter or nut-free butter
- 8 small, low-carb flour tortillas
- 1 cup blueberries, washed and dried
- 1 cup raspberries, washed and dried
- Preheat air fryer to 400 F.
- Add diced sweetpotatoes to air fryer basket and lightly spray with olive oil spray. Cook sweetpotatoes 10 minutes, shaking basket 1-2 times to toss sweetpotatoes.
- Transfer cooked sweetpotatoes to medium bowl; add peanut butter and mix well.
- Lay tortillas on counter and place 1-2 tablespoons sweetpotato mixture on each tortilla.
- Add blueberries and raspberries next to sweetpotato mixture.
- Roll each tortilla tightly. Place rolled tortillas, seam sides down, in air fryer.
- Spray tortillas lightly with olive oil spray.
- Cook in air fryer 6-7 minutes.
Easy Homemade Salsa
Recipe courtesy of Healthy Family Project
Cook time: 10 minutes
- 1/2 small RealSweet sweet onion, halved
- 5 mini sweet peppers, seeded and quartered
- 3 Roma tomatoes, quartered
- 1 1/2 limes, juice only
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt, or to taste
- tortilla chips
- In food processor, blend onion, peppers, tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro and garlic salt until desired consistency is reached. Serve with tortilla chips.
Healthy Family Project