Between meetings, deadlines and day-to-day chaos, it can be hard to prioritize your own heart health at work. And too often, people don’t—they imagine that a heart-healthy lifestyle is something you do outside work hours, like cooking healthy meals or exercising at home.
But heart health is more of an around-the-clock thing; you shouldn’t ignore it just because you’re at work. In fact, many heart risks may actually come from the workplace: Researchers have found that work hazards like loud noises, frequent sitting and night shifts can raise your risk for certain heart problems.
Even work-related stress poses a danger: Authors in one study from the Journal of the American Heart Association noted that feeling stressed out at work can raise the risk of heart disease from 30 to 50 percent.
With all these hazards—which can occur whether you’re working from home or not—it’s important to keep heart health at work top-of-mind, even on your busiest days. So here’s a tip that can help: Try the 1-2-3 Approach.
What’s the 1-2-3 Approach?
There are a million things you could do every day to support your heart health at work, but time can get away from us—especially during a busy workday. The 1-2-3 Approach makes heart health more straightforward. It’s just three important things you should do every hour to check in with yourself, and your heart too.
These small actions can have a big impact, and best of all, they’re simple enough to create into regular habits. If you commit to making these actions a part of your routine, you’ll be doing them without even realizing it before too long.
Exercise can help you lower your blood pressure, reduce stress and manage weight—which can all positively benefit your heart health.
Look for Ways To Fit Physical Activity Into Your Hour
Fitting a full workout into the workday isn’t always possible. Instead, look for small opportunities to get physical activity when you can.
For example, if you have meetings or calls scheduled—what about taking them on the go? Walking is a great way to get in extra steps and cardiac activity. Plus, you and your colleagues may also find that having a change of scenery during meetings inspires new ideas and fresh thinking.
When you need to sit down in front of a computer for focused work, try to take a five-minute break per hour. Setting a timer or quick calendar reminder on your phone or computer can help you remember to get out and stretch your legs.
There are other ways to sneak in physical activity, too—like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking or cycling to work instead of driving, or parking farther away so that you have to walk across the parking lot. So-called “deskercise” is another great way to stay active in a sedentary job: Give these simple stretches a try to see how you like them!
Stressful, busy or even boring days can invite mindless eating, and we’re all guilty of reaching into that snack drawer when we may not really need it.
Ask Yourself Whether You’re Really Hungry—And Grab a Healthy Choice if So.
If you find yourself grabbing something to munch on, ask yourself whether you’re truly hungry. You may find that you’re just stressed or antsy instead. In that case, a walk might be just the ticket rather than filling up on empty calories.
Still, snacks are an essential part of the workday. Healthy choices can keep you feeling full and with enough energy to get through even the most challenging days at work. So keep healthy options handy. Things like dried or fresh fruit, whole-grain crackers and homemade trail mix are easy to grab-and-go so that you can get on with your day.
Don’t forget about lunch: Skipping meals does no favors for your health—and may make you feel fatigued and miss out on nutrients your body needs. Bring a healthy lunch so that you’re not tempted to order something unhealthy from a drive-thru. Items like low-sodium canned tuna, string cheese and carrot sticks make for delicious and good-for-you lunches that you can pack in less than five minutes.
Stress is a normal part of life—and work, too. But given the known risks of heart disease and work-related stress, it’s a good idea to check in with yourself often.
Regularly Check In on Your Stress Levels.
If you feel particularly stressed about a demanding project or coworker, you may want to take a short break to recover and clear your head. Putting on some headphones with calming music may help too. (Just watch out for unhealthy coping behaviors, like smoking or overeating, which can raise your risk for heart troubles.)
But if you feel like your stress at work is more chronic, consider talking to your boss or HR department to learn what solutions are available to you. Maybe a different schedule or working in another department or setting is an option. Some workplaces even have corporate stress management programs that can help employees address and tackle stress in more productive, healthy ways.
Minding Your Heart Health at Work, Home and Everywhere in Between
Your heart works nonstop for you all day, every day. It’s important to be mindful of your heart health around-the-clock as well. You could spin your wheels trying to do everything right, or you could try the 1-2-3 Approach—which makes heart-healthy living a little more manageable through easy actions.
Fit in exercise, eat for your heart and make stress management a priority. Together, those three actions could make a big difference on your heart health.
Also, consider your employer as a supporter for your heart health at work. They may have fringe benefit offerings like wellness perks or free healthy meals that make healthy lifestyles more attainable.
After all, we’re all in this together—and employers know that you can’t properly do your job unless you feel your best, inside and out. You might be surprised how much they’re willing and able to support you so that they can keep their workforce happy and healthy.
Watermelon and feta cheese, dates rolled in coconut, carrot sticks and hummus…what’s your favorite go-to snack to keep you energized at work? Share in the comments below.
This informational material shall not be considered medical or health advice. You should always consult your health care provider before changing your diet or starting a new exercise regimen. The Hartford assumes no responsibility for any decisions related to your medical or health care. Consult with your health care provider, nutritionist, or other health professional before making any decisions that may impact your health and well-being.