"Your blood pressure is 103 over 77," said the Walgreens' pharmacist. "That's low. Are you taking any blood pressure medication?"
"No," I replied. "But I did do my morning meditation."
"Good for you. Keep up whatever you're doing," said the nice pharmacist.
I went to Walgreens recently after being asked to participate in its #HeartHealthGoals campaign during February. It includes offers for free blood pressure screening, plus its "Balance Rewards points for healthy choices" program, and vitamin and other supplement purchases to help you maintain a healthy heart. As part of the Balance Rewards program, you can get points for logging your blood pressure, tracking activities like walking or cycling and setting healthy goals. See full terms and details at Walgreens.com/Balance.*
February Is American Heart Month
Each February, in honor of American Heart Month, I put on my red attire and share helpful reminders on ways to take care of your heart.
In yoga, we always seal our intentions into our heart. It's the center of our mind, body and spirit—an organ that nourishes the entire body and keeps us moving and grooving. As a post-50 female with a family history of diabetes and heart disease from my late dad and high cholesterol from my late mom, taking care of my heart health is tops on my wellness agenda.
Walgreens offers free blood pressure screenings by a pharmacist during February.
Exercising for a Healthy Heart
A recent survey, conducted by the Cleveland Clinic (and reported on TODAY.com Health and Wellness), found that "many of us aren't getting the recommended amount of exercise—2.5 hours per week." That may be, in part, because few of us know what the recommendations are or how vital they are.
Dr. Steven Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, says, "A lot of people don't appreciate how important exercise is for your heart."
In addition to my meditation and yoga practices, I've recently started doing more cardio workouts to get my heart pumping for peak performance. Learning to use an elliptical machine at the gym has been a crowning achievement for me the past month. (Go Judi! Go Judi! Go Judi!)
Eating for a Healthy Heart
Unfortunately, I am allergic to statins, so I try to use dietary ways to lower my cholesterol. It's an ongoing struggle, with my last blood test showing a total cholesterol level of 249, down from 277 a year ago. Thankfully, my HDL, the good cholesterol in my body, is high, which helps to counteract my high levels of LDL, the bad stuff.
To manage my cholesterol, I try to follow a Mediterranean diet, using olive oil in my cooking and including plenty of fish, vegetables and whole grains in my diet. I also eat almonds every day, which have been shown to lower cholesterol. A 2015 study from Penn State published in the Journal of the American Heart Association links eating almonds every day to signs of better heart health, including a 36 percent drop in LDL cholesterol compared to participants who snacked on muffins.
Take Time to Take Care of Your Heart
I encourage you to take time this month to take care of your heart. Get your blood pressure checked for free at your local Walgreens. If you can't go, there are plenty of heart health tips at Walgreens.com, including information on understanding blood pressure readings, cholesterol goals and how to live a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Always check with your health care provider before starting any exercise program or taking new vitamins or supplements.
Most importantly, know the signs of a heart attack. They're different for women than for men.
What intention do you plan to seal into your heart this month? Whatever you choose, add an extra one for heart health.
*Note: I was asked to participate in the #HeartHealthGoals campaign, sponsored by Walgreens. Although I have been compensated, all opinions are my own.
This post originally appeared on aboomerslifeafter50.com.