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How You Can Get in Shape this Summer
How to Alert, Anticipate and Act for Your Cardiovascular Health

Lockdown, re-opening, stress, and changing schedules have all disrupted our lives and weakened our cardiovascular health. The Women’s Cardiovascular Healthcare Foundation (Agir pour le Cœur des Femmes) is sounding the alert, encouraging women to anticipate and act over the summer to get back in shape before fall.

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Alert after a period that was hard on our lifestyles
“Lockdown was a time when a third of French people gained weight,” says Prof. Claire Mounier-Vehier, MD, cofounder of Women’s Cardiovascular Healthcare Foundation (Agir pour le Cœur des Femmes) and a cardiologist at University Hospital of Lille. “We let ourselves go a bit since it was hard to stay physically active and manage the stress of this time. Things didn’t improve much as everything started opening back up because many of us celebrated the opportunity to see friends and family by doing more drinking, smoking and snacking on salty appetizers. Let’s use our summer holidays to take care of our hearts and our arteries so we can start the fall in good shape!” Anticipate: Avoid the Four Red ‘S’s
Sedentary lifestyle

Even though there were lots of online classes and videos available to help us stay active at home, findings show that people moved less during lockdown. - Kids were the most impacted. Six out of 10 didn’t get physical activity every day, even though the WHO recommends being active at least one hour every day. - Even more worrying, 14% of young people didn’t get any exercise during this time. The rate increased to 20% among teens.1
- This situation only worsened the steady increase in sedentary lifestyles among kids, especially young girls. During normal times, only 15.7% of them get 60 minutes of exercise per day between the ages of 15 and 17.2 - Only 53% of adult women meet the WHO’s recommendations for physical activity, which is two and a half hours per week at moderate intensity or one hour and fifteen minutes of intense activity. These days, we know how important it is to be physically active to stay healthy as long as possible and prevent cardiovascular disease. - Getting exercise is unanimously recognized as one of the best preventive measures at any age and it’s something everyone can do. It has many benefits, like reducing pain, strengthening the immune system, preventing depression, releasing well-being hormones, stimulating memory, improving cardiovascular capacity, strengthening bones, regulating high blood pressure, regulating weight gain, reducing the risks of diabetes and abdominal obesity, protecting against cancer, and improving sleep. A little bit of exercise every day is truly a wonder drug.
Stress
Lockdown was especially stressful for some people, a time filled with loneliness, boredom, frustration, anger or tense family situations.
- The percentage of people regularly taking anxiety medications increased from 4% to 6% with a potential increase in the number of doses taken.3 As things began to re-open, people worried about whether it was safe to return to previous activities and faced anxiety over precarious financial situations, especially in certain industries. - But we aren’t doomed to suffer the effects of severe stress. Here are ways to mitigate them: exercise regularly, take time for regular relaxation, listen to music, strengthen social ties by staying in touch with your loved ones, avoid alcohol and tobacco, take a quick nap after the midday meal, practice cardiac coherence breathing exercises or mindfulness meditation and laugh several times per day. Or why not try practicing laughter yoga, sleeping seven to eight hours per night and eating a balanced meal at set times with your family.
Super Sizing
With lockdown and sedentary days, 57% of French people gained weight, adding an average of 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs.). And 61% of women who gained weight aren’t happy about it.4 On top of that, the extra gatherings as things re-opened didn’t do anything for our waistlines. - Ideally, it’s recommended that you eat five fruits and veggies per day, meaning at least 14 oz. for every meal. Eat them in all forms (cooked, raw, etc.) to benefit from their fiber and vitamin K. You should also limit consumption of simple sugars, alcoholic beverages and saturated fats. Salt
Salt is an enemy in any situation that promotes weight gain. Eating too much of it makes the arteries more rigid and promotes high blood pressure which is one of the main risk factors for heart attack and stroke. - The WHO recommends limiting salt intake to under 6 g (less than a teaspoon) per day. Most adults regularly consume 10 g (nearly three teaspoons). We need to keep an eye on this during the summer when we’re likely to eat products that have lots of salt like deli meats, chips, nuts, prepared foods, etc. Get More of the Four Green ‘S’s
Sports
Summer is the perfect time to get back in the habit doing a physical activity you love, like walking, running, swimming or biking! - 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity every day reduces premature mortality by 17%. And if your physical activity is high intensity, premature mortality decreases by 35%!5 - “Remember that occasional physical activity during the summer won’t be enough to counteract a sedentary lifestyle during the rest of the year. You have to keep moving as the weather cools down and take every opportunity to get more exercise: take the stairs instead of the elevator, use public transportation instead of your car, get off one stop early to walk more, make phone calls standing up, and do something physically active during your free time with family and friends,” advises Prof. Claire Mounier-Vehier, MD. Serenity
Take time to relax in the sun and enjoy some vacation. Yoga, mindfulness meditation or just an early-afternoon nap all do wonders to reduce our stress level. And why not take this opportunity to try out cardiac coherence breathing exercises? The goal is to synchronize your breathing and your heart rhythm with relaxation techniques. - The simplest version is six respirations per minute for five minutes three times per day. You can search for cardiac coherence on your app store to find smartphone apps that will help you complete the breathing exercises. Smile
Summer is also a good time to spend some carefree moments smiling and laughing. A few minutes of laughter every day strengthens the heart and improves blood flow by giving the heart muscle more oxygen. This reduces the risk of blood clots and cardiovascular disease. - Why not give laughter yoga a try? It will help you get the combined benefits of laughter and breath control. https://laughteryoga.org/laughter-yoga/about-laughter-yoga/
Sexuality How about a bit of seduction this summer? Sex is considered a moderate physical activity equivalent to quickly climbing two flights of stairs. It also has stress-fighting benefits because hormones are released during orgasm (serotonin, dopamine and endorphins). The World Health Organization says that regular sexual activity contributes to quality of life since it’s beneficial for mental and physical health, especially cardiovascular health. Contrary to popular belief, it’s safe after recovering from an acute cardiovascular event. It’s even recommended, like any other physical activity. 1Study conducted by Assurance Prévention and IRMES
2Bulletin Epidémiologique Hebdomadaire, June 9, 2020
3Survey conducted by Odoxa and FG2A, June 2020
4Ifop study for Darwin Nutrition
5 Study conducted with 7,999 Americans over age 45 by Columbia University Irving Medical Center, published on January 14, 2019 in the American Journal of Epidemiology
6 Miller M, Fry WF. The effect of mirthful laughter on the human cardiovascular system Download the press release in French

 

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