Do Your Heart Good: Five Healthy Habits You Can Take on the Road


Lower your risk of heart disease with these healthy tips

By Megan Murdock Krischke, contributor

Travel nurses know that moving from place to place can make it challenging to maintain healthy habits. In fact, travelers may need to work harder to create daily routines and patterns of self-care that they can turn to when everything else is in transition. 

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Instead of sifting through the thousands of diet books and fitness videos, concentrate on the heart of the matter--literally. Commit to some basic, healthy habits that can strengthen your heart, lower your risk of heart disease and offer many short- and long-term benefits.

RELATED: 7 Healthy Lifestyle Changes Nurses Can Make

Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, is one of the first locations in the country to have a dedicated heart center for women. Cardiologist Pam Marcovitz, MD, is the medical director of the Ministrelli Women’s Heart Center at Beaumont and is passionate about helping women live heart-healthy lives.

“Heart disease is the number one killer of women. Yet, a real barrier for women maintaining habits of regular exercise and healthful eating is that they often don’t rank their own health on a list of the top 20 things that are most important to them,” remarked Marcovitz. “The investment in our health day to day determines our longevity and quality of life.”

Don’t wait for a wake-up call

Even though nurses may care for patients with cardiovascular disease, some don’t make the effort to follow a healthy lifestyle until tragedy hits close to home; perhaps when a friend or family member suffers a heart attack or stroke. Nurses should make their own health a priority and work to maintain a strong and healthy heart--and do it sooner rather than later.

Marcovitz recommends taking an online heart health risk assessment such as the American Heart Association’s (AHA) My Life Check. This will give you objective feedback on your risk for heart disease and offer guidelines for improving heart health.

Five simple ways travel nurses can improve heart health

Marcovitz offers these tips for travel nurses to integrate more heart-healthy habits into their busy lives:

1.   Put exercise on your schedule

As soon as you get your work schedule at your new travel nursing assignment, sit down and figure out when you are going to exercise. You might even ask your recruiter to hold you accountable by asking if you have workouts on your calendar when he or she checks in at the beginning of your assignment. Remember, the AHA recommends 30-40 minutes of moderate exercise, three to five times a week.

2.   Find a fitness activity you enjoy  

It is easier to say “Yes” to exercise when you are having fun. Consider whether it is important to you to be outdoors, and if you prefer to exercise alone, with a friend or in a group. Travelers will find that being in a new city offers opportunities to experience different types of sports and recreation, and mixing up your fitness routine can help you stay engaged. Walking tends to be one of the most enjoyable and accessible fitness activities available.

3.   Track your progress

Use a Fitbit or other wearable device, a fitness app, or an old-fashioned journal to help you track your progress and stay motivated to reach your healthy lifestyle goals.

4.   Plan ahead for healthy eats

If you don’t make an effort to have healthy foods available at home or at work, it’s likely that you’ll just grab the easiest thing--and the easiest thing is unlikely to be the healthiest thing. You might even consider packing a week’s worth of lunches on one of your days off. Pinterest has loads of ideas for pack-ahead lunches, including these tips on packing salads that will stay fresh all week.

5.   Stand up and move

“Sitting is the new smoking,” noted Marcovitz. “The reason is that the more time we spend sitting is the greater the chance we will develop heart disease and even some cancers, among other chronic diseases.”

She added that just working in 10 minutes of standing or walking into every hour can make a significant improvement in our heart heath. Although nurses may walk a few miles during a shift, adding a few trips up the stairs and stretching your legs during long periods of computer documentation can add heart-friendly benefits.

Is your heart longing for a new adventure?
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