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Get Heart Smart: Healthy Living for Travel Nurses

February is American Heart Month and a good time to rejuvenate those New Year’s resolutions to eat right, exercise, and embrace a heart-healthy lifestyle. As a travel nurse, you want to set a good example for your patients. Here are some tips for staying well while working hard on your travel nursing assignment.

How to Stay Heart Healthy

Annual Check-Up

Before you leave on your travel nurse job, be sure you are up to date on your physician visit and tests. Blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels are essential to heart health. If you have high blood pressure, be sure to check it daily.

Beauty Sleep Matters

A good night’s sleep promotes heart health. Avoid caffeine, large meals, and alcohol before bed. Exercise is also important to a good night’s sleep. Resist the urge to check your phone at bedtime by putting your cell phone and laptop in another room. Also, be sure your bedroom is a dark and cool, so you stay comfy all night long. Sweet dreams!

Embrace a New Fitness Routine

Motion is lotion for the heart. Here are some fun ways to get your heart rate pumping:

  • Find a dance class or a hiking trail in your new city. Make regular exercise part of your travel nurse adventure.
  • At work, climb the stairs and walk the hallways.
  • If you sit at a computer for long periods, remember the 20-20-20 rule (20 minutes sitting, 20 minutes standing, 20 minutes looking away from the screen).
  • If you can exercise outdoors during your time off, you’ll reap the benefits of healthy doses of Vitamin D.
  • No time to go to the gym? Get a fitness DVD or look on YouTube for yoga or pilates classes you can do at home.
  • Make fitness friends at work and use your lunch time to exercise (if you can take a lunch, that is!). You can even start your own “Weight Loss” heart healthy challenge and have a healthy potluck once a month.

Control Your Weight

Maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) is the key to a healthy heart but getting there requires patience and focus. Start by using the BMI calculator provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Helpful tips to support weight management:
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and watch your portion control. Incorporate colorful vegetables in your diet so you’re getting the maximum value from the food you eat. For healthy breakfast ideas, read these 5 easy tips for busy nurses to enjoy healthy
  • Sugar and salty snacks are a no-no, although occasional dark chocolate can be your sweet treat.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Water is your heart’s friend. Eliminate soda and cut down on juice, which can be high in sugar.

Eliminate Heart-Enemy Habits

Stop smoking (including vaping) now; your family, friends and heart will thank you. Equally important is limiting your alcohol intake. While a glass of red wine now and again has healing benefits, too much of any alcohol can damage your heart, kidneys, and liver.

Reduce Stress & Anxiety

Long-term stress can wear out your heart. What helps? Travel nurses tell us they like to bring a few favorite things (stuffed animal, favorite framed photo) on the road, even their favorite herbal tea stash, like lavender and chamomile. If you’re one of the many people who lays in bed worrying, try writing down what’s on your mind and then set it aside to tackle in the morning.

Remember to pamper yourself during your time off:
  • Stay in touch with family and friends by text, phone, FaceTime, or Skype. Go out of your way to make new friends on your new unit. Socializing is good for the heart.
  • Listen to relaxing music, take a lavender-scented bubble bath, or cuddle your puppy. (Yes, you can take your pet on a travel nurse assignment).
  • Meditation, healing visualizations and deep breathing exercises can calm your heart rate.
  • Venture outdoors. Simply walking or sitting in nature is an easy way to revitalize your system.
  • Make time for fun. Keep smiling, keep perspective and most of all, keep a positive attitude. Namaste!

For more wellness resources, read our article, “New Focus on Nurses’ Mental Health, Well-being”.

During American Heart Month, NurseChoice salutes its Cardiovascular and ER nurses who keep people heart healthy. We have well-paid CVICU, CVOR, and ER jobs around the country. Visit our contract nursing job search page to find your next contract.

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