European Habits to Adopt for Your Heart Health
While excess weight, obesity, and cardiovascular disease are certainly on the rise worldwide, traveling to Europe often reminds us of how much worse the heart health situation is in the United States. And this isn’t data determined through the rose-colored lenses of a vacation traveler. Unfortunately, the US leads the world in many preventable diseases, including heart disease. Interestingly, Europeans make several habits and lifestyle choices that, if emulated, would likely improve our health dramatically.
- The diet. First, many southern European countries practice the “Mediterranean diet,” but it is just a typical day’s eating for them. This utilizes the bounty of the land and sea near the Mediterranean to construct a diet that is high in healthy fats and lean protein while minimizing empty carbs, saturated fats, and heavy red and fatty meats. The Mediterranean diet isn’t so much a diet in a sense we have become accustomed to, but rather it represents a lifestyle shift away from processed foods and back to what our grandparents would likely have eaten.
- You are eating smaller portions. You don’t always need to get your money’s worth. Instead of going out three times a week and going to a fast-casual restaurant with huge portions, why not just go somewhere once a week and spend a bit more on delicious, fresh, and flavorful food. Not only will you likely become a better cook, but you’ll savor your food, enjoying it far more.
- An evening stroll. You’ll also see many Europeans prioritize a nice long walk in the evening, either before or after dinner. This is necessary to relax and get the heart rate up, even slightly, for better health. Walking not only has physical benefits in the form of cardiovascular activity and calorie burning but can also help stabilize mood, clear our minds, and melt the stress of the day.
- Taking a midday break. Workers in the United States do not take enough time off. We often don’t even use all our vacation days, deservedly accrued over the year. The result is often an overworked and overstressed workforce that may not be even remotely as productive as one that works less but manages to balance their work-life with their mental and physical health. It doesn’t take much to give your body and mind a rest. Even taking a proper hour-long lunch break– not at your desk, but maybe in a park nearby, is an excellent way to give yourself the pause you need to be productive while staying healthy.
“Self-care” is a term used a lot these days, especially as expectations and pressures mount in work and personal life. Self-care doesn’t require expensive or lavish efforts. Further, being good to yourself shouldn’t be an emulation of another culture; it should be the norm.
Start by incorporating one lifestyle change to benefit yourself and build on how that change makes you look and feel. As you start stacking these healthy habits, you will see your life improving dramatically and in short order. Soon, these changes become the norm, and you can address preventable diseases, including cardiovascular problems, more effectively.