If the Mom in your life doesn't need another picture frame, pan set, or vacuum cleaner, go with something that keeps her smiling, feeling young, and on her toes—the gift of heart health. Here are seven ideas.
1. Go out for Greek dinner. Mediterranean-style food isn't just delicious, it can be quite healthy, too. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish with some olive oil, nuts, and, yes, red wine, lowers heart disease risk, and might keep depression, type 2 diabetes, and possibly Alzheimer's disease away, too.
2. Give a fruit basket. It's a no-brainer, eating a wide variety of fruits is an easy way to protect the heart. In a recent study, women who ate dried apples every day for a year lowered their LDL (bad) cholesterol by 23 percent, increased their HDL (good) cholesterol by 4 percent, and, on average, shed 3.3 pounds
3. Get out in the back yard. Gardening is a great way to bond with mom, enjoy the outdoors, and shed pounds too. Thirty minutes of weeding, trimming shrubs, or pushing a lawn mower burns around 182 calories (for a 180-pound person), according to the National Gardening Association. And such moderate-intensity exercises can lower blood pressure and cholesterol and might also reduce the risk of cancer and also type diabetes. So buy her a flowering bush and get digging together.
4. Grab a gym or yoga pass. Yoga is known for its stress-busting benefits, but it might also help protect the heart. A recent study suggests yoga can improve control a common and deadly heart-rhythm abnormality, atrial fibrillation, also a major risk factor for stroke. Make sure mom knows to chose the right style for her: Ashtanga (also called vinyasa, flow, or power yoga), which involves moving through poses quickly, provides a more strenuous workout, and Iyengar is gentler and helps you achieve the fundamental positions.
5. Consider getting an at-home blood pressure monitor. Think she doesn't want one? If she has high blood pressure, she should, according to the American Heart Association. Keeping blood pressure in check an important step in protecting the heart. New research shows that while premature deaths from high blood pressure are down compared with 20 years ago, people with high blood pressure are still more likely to die younger than others.
6. Check her medicine cabinet. OK, that might not sound like much of a gift either, but drug side effects and interactions are far more common than most people think, including with supplements. Did you know, for example, that some supplements can interact dangerously with heart drugs? And many women take drugs that might not be ideal for them. So go through them all, check expiration dates, and make an appointment with her doctor to review them.
7. Give her some LOL's. Laughing can boost immunity, lower blood sugar, and increase blood flow, research suggests. And 15 minutes of hearty laughter could burn up to 40 calories, enough to shed more than 4 pounds a year if done daily. So go ahead and treat her, and yourself, to a comedy show, musical, or funny movie.