By Tiffani Stewart
St. Charles City-County Library
Your heart is an amazing muscle. It beats 100,000 times each day, pumping about 2,000 gallons of blood through 60,000 miles of arteries, veins, and capillaries (“How the Heart Works,” Beckerman). Does it go to bed when you do? NO. It keeps working, day and night, for your entire life. Doesn’t it deserve a little love and attention? Since February is American Heart Month, this is a good time to adopt some heart-healthy habits that can keep your ticker tuned up and ready to run for a long time. The Library can help! Discover a few ideas for heart health and resources the Library can provide to support this major majestic muscle. (Be sure to ask your doctor about any lifestyle changes before you begin.)
Fruits and vegetables are the keys to a heart-healthy diet, according to the American Heart Association (2022). The library offers over 112 vegetable cookbooks, including Zoodles Spiralizer Cookbook: A Vegetable Noodle and Pasta Cookbook by Sonnet Lauberth, Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One by Anita Lo, and Plant, Cook, Eat!: A Children's Cookbook by Joe Archer (for maybe the harshest critics at the table). In addition, you can check out a spiralizer, instant pot, air fryer, or digital scale. Find kitchen equipment at myLibrary.org/library-things.
Soothe Your Stress
When you’re stressed, your blood vessels tighten, and your heart beats faster, which drives up your blood pressure (“Countdown to a Healthier Heart,” Duvauchelle). Love long baths? A good mystery novel? Want to explore meditation? Whatever it is, find a stress reliever that works for you. While the Library does not carry bath products, you can discover a huge variety of eBooks and audiobooks. A recent search of our Hoopla online catalog revealed over 3,000 available titles on meditation (and 45,000 mysteries). Prefer a nature walk? Try a Storybook Walk with your family. Visit five locations regularly for beautiful walking paths that provide pages of a story along the way. (Get more information at myLibrary.org/storybook-walk).
Know Your Numbers
Your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are important numbers to help identify your heart disease risk. Not sure why these numbers are important? Use your library card to access health and wellness resources online (myLibrary.org/research-learn) to help you understand more about how blood pressure and cholesterol affect your heart health. Check with your doctor for personalized targets and lifestyle changes that will help you hit them.
Beat the Burn
If you smoke, quit. That’s easier said than done - but it’s possible. When you’re ready, the Library can help. Discover books like Quit Smoking Today Without Gaining Weight by Paul McKenna, The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr, or I Know You Like to Smoke But You Can Quit - Now by Andreas Joop. No time to read? Listen to Smoke-Free in 30 Days by Daniel F. Seidman while you drive or work.
Embrace Exercise (and Non-Exercise Too!)
Maybe you go to work or school where you sit at a desk all day. Maybe you enjoy relaxing in front of a computer or a television set. Maybe you have a long commute that forces you to sit for long periods of time. The average person sits for more than half of our waking hours. And sadly, a sedentary lifestyle is the enemy of a healthy heart. (“Sedentary Behavior and Cardiovascular Morbidity and Mortality,” Duncan)
What to do? Obviously, adopting exercise into your life is an important part of maintaining good health. (The American Heart Association suggests 30 minutes of activity most days.) But even when you can’t make time to exercise, you can still incorporate small spontaneous activities that can help you reach your heart-healthy goals. For example, standing from a seated position, tidying up the house, or playing with your kids or grandkids are the types of small exertions - non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) - that can reduce the risks associated with prolonged sitting.
Find out more about NEAT when you stream an episode of Great Courses using your library card. View episode 8 of “The Mayo Clinic Diet: Exercise, Activity, and Health” through Kanopy (at myLibrary.org/read-listen-watch-play) to find ideas for making small changes that could make a big difference.
Take care of your heart in February - and every month! While you’re at the Boone’s Trail Branch or the Augusta Branch for one of these classes & events, ask Library staff about cookbooks, exercise equipment, online resources, or other materials that can help you on your health journey. Your library card could be your ticket to a healthier you.