Outdoor Exercise and Benefits towards Heart Health

As we head into Spring and Summer and as the weather gets nicer it is a great time to get you and your family outdoors doing activities and exercising. Outdoor activities and exercise can greatly benefit you and your heart health. 

One great benefit of outdoor exercise is it can be a great way to start your cardiovascular health journey. According to Piedmont Healthcare “Walking outdoors is a great cardiovascular workout, especially if you’re new to exercise.” Being able to ease into a new exercise routine is key to maintaining it. Overall it can be a great benefit to incorporate the outdoors or begin your cardio exercise journey outdoors so as to gain the real benefits from it by maintaining it.

While we understand that outdoor exercise can be a great cardio workout, what are some examples of these exercises? The Cleveland Clinic offers some examples of what can constitute outdoor exercise. These included walking outside, cycling outside, doing outdoor swim activities, and jogging or running outside. It is important to see which activities and exercise outside can be beneficial to your overall cardiovascular health.

If you are looking to safely do an exercise class, or group workout outdoors, we recommend doing a virtual outdoor exercise class or just a virtual workout class outside. Some options we would recommend are the YMCA virtual workout classes, the 92Y virtual workout classes, and the Fitness in the Parks Program. These classes will allow you to safely explore outdoor cardio workouts.

So with the weather getting much nicer get out and get active! It is a great way for you and your family to get some beneficial exercise and fresh air. Also, make sure to consult with your doctor if you have a health condition that you are concerned may prevent you from doing any activities or exercises outdoors.


Heart Healthy Food Access


For our families, one of the barriers they face on their heart journey is having healthy food options. In 2020, more than half of the grants we gave out to families, were for food. We know that one major aspect of supporting your heart is through having a heart-healthy diet. Having a healthy diet is one of the best ways to prevent cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association “A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease.”1 A healthy and overall balanced diet is something Harboring Hearts and our hospital partners work to promote regularly. However, there are hurdles some families face when it comes to being able to access this food and thus be able to provide a heart-healthy and balanced diet.


“A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons to fight cardiovascular disease.” – The American Heart Association


A difficulty when it comes to families being able to access healthy foods is the lack of Grocery Stores or places that sell or provide healthy foods. These areas are known as ‘food deserts’ and can be a large contributor to an increased chance of having cardiovascular disease. According to the article Living in Food Deserts and Adverse Cardiovascular Outcomes in Patients With Cardiovascular Disease from the American Heart Association Journal, “Living in an FD [Food Desert] is associated with a higher risk of adverse cardiovascular events in those with coronary artery disease.”2 This shows the importance of promoting and providing access to these better foods for people in ‘Food Desert’ areas, as it has a huge impact on the heart health for families in those communities.


During the COVID- 19 Pandemic, it has also been made clear the difficulties families have faced even being able to go out to their local grocery store as it is a great risk for them with contracting the virus. According to the organization City Harvest, which works to end the food access and hunger crisis in New York, “The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crash that followed have made New York City’s hunger crisis even worse. Food insecurity is expected to rise 38 percent citywide in 2020.”3 The difficulties of being able to get food and being put at risk for the virus have made it more difficult for families to have food access.


The article from the Rand Organization entitled, Food Access: Challenges and Solutions Brought on by COVID-19, describes how the pandemic has made it even more difficult for families who are in ‘Food Deserts’ and already have limited resources when it comes to groceries now have the difficulty of limited access with store hours and travel due to the pandemic. The article states how “individuals living in neighborhoods with already limited access to grocery stores and restaurants are likely experiencing additional difficulties due to business closures and transit restrictions.”4 The evidence shows that lack to access to basic food resources before and during the pandemic has made it extremely difficult for families to have their necessary food supplies let alone their food necessary to sustain a heart-healthy diet.


 “individuals living in neighborhoods with already limited access to grocery stores and restaurants are likely experiencing additional difficulties due to business closures and transit restrictions.”


There are support systems to help families in need of healthy food and grocery options. Especially during the COVID- 19 pandemic when this food access has been even more limited. New York City has created a portal for families to access emergency food and grocery supplies they need. Families can access these resources at https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/contact/services/COVID-19FoodAssistance.shtml. Here at Harboring Hearts, we are with you and your families as you work to navigate and support each other through these times while still working to balance a healthy diet and lifestyle.



1 https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations

2 https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.118.010694




American Heart Month and Black History Month


February 1st kicks off Heart Month as well as Black History Month! Here at Harboring Hearts, we want to celebrate and honor the connection as well as spread awareness of the intersection between our work and Black History Month. 


American Heart Month was established by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 when he made a Presidential Proclamation in December 1963. He declared that the month February (starting in February 1964) would be American Heart Month. American Heart Month celebrates the amazing work and people who are connected with heart disease. Through the course of the month, we will raise awareness and share the incredible stories of patients who have received a transplant or undergone cardiothoracic surgery. 


Black History Month and Heart Month give us a unique opportunity, at Harboring Hearts, to help raise awareness about heart challenges faced by many in the Black community. A community most affected by heart disease is the Black community. African Americans experience a greater risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke (Source: Graham, G. Curr Cardiol Rev. 2015 Aug;11(3):238-245). The work we do at Harboring Hearts from the grants we give through our Emergency Fund to the various ways we support the financial and emotional health of our patients and families, we do so with the understanding that heart issues can impact anyone. What we know about heart disease is that Black adults are 40% more likely to have heart related issues than other groups.


Harboring Hearts-Nike SoHo Store Event 2020


Harboring Hearts is committed to providing support to heart patients and their families who need it the most. We invite you to check back in both on our blog and on our social media to learn more about the heart challenges faced by the Black community. We will share more news about our February events as we celebrate Heart Month!

For more information on the History of American Heart Disease Month and the impact of Heart Disease on the Black community in the United States visit the New York City Health website, New York State Health website, American College of Cardiology website, and the American Heart Association website. 


This month, you can support our programs and help families in 3 easy ways this month:

  1. Make a purchase at www.chomps.com. At checkout, you can donate up to $20 to Harboring Hearts and Chomps will match up to $2,000 received from February 1 – February 15th.
  2. Participate in the Junior Board’s Candy Jar Guessing Game for $5. All proceeds will help a cardiothoracic surgery and transplant patient in need. Contact Dori at dori@harboringhearts.org to learn more!
  3. 3. You can sign up to run our virtual race in partnership with our Junior Board! The race takes place February 26-28th. Contact Dori at dori@harboringhearts.org to learn more!

10 Facts About Children’s Cardiomyopathy

10 Facts about Children’s Cardiomyopathy – from the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation.

  • Cardiomyopathy is a chronic illness of the heart muscle that causes the heart to decrease its ability to pump blood. In severe cases, it can lead to heart failure.
  • There are five forms of cardiomyopathy: dilated (DCM), hypertrophic (HCM), restrictive (RCM), arrhythmogenic right ventricular (ARVC) cardiomyopathy, and left ventricular non-compaction cardiomyopathy (LVNC). Each of these forms is based on a different part of the heart muscle being affected.
  • Cardiomyopathy can affect any child.
  • Symptoms of cardiomyopathy may be different depending on the form of cardiomyopathy. For example, if a child has dilated cardiomyopathy, their symptoms may include shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling in different areas of the body.
  • Cardiomyopathy can be a genetically inherited disease, acquired from a viral infection, or caused by cancer chemotherapy.
  • Cardiomyopathy is a chronic disease without any cure currently. 
  • Cardiomyopathy is the leading cause for children needing to receive heart transplants.
  • When Cardiomyopathy is undiagnosed, it can lead to a higher risk of a child experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Many children with Cardiomyopathy experience activity restrictions and psychosocial issues.
  • Treating pediatric cardiomyopathy is complicated due to the fact that it is a variable disease with many different causes and different symptoms. A treatment plan is determined mainly by the form of cardiomyopathy, the child’s age, and their heart status.

Children’s Cardiomyopathy Awareness Month

Harboring Hearts is partnering with the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation (CCF) to promote Children’s Cardiomyopathy Awareness Month this September. The awareness month calls attention to the signs, symptoms, and risk factors for cardiomyopathy and sudden cardiac arrest. 


Cardiomyopathy affects how the heart muscle pumps blood through the body, and it is a leading cause of sudden cardiac deaths and heart transplants in children. 


Throughout the month, Harboring Hearts will be posting facts and information on Children’s Cardiomyopathy. Children’s Cardiomyopathy Awareness Month encourages parents, physicians, nurses, coaches, teachers, and community leaders to be aware of the signs and symptoms of cardiomyopathy to better identify at-risk children and direct them to the appropriate medical care. Increased attention in this area can help to prevent sudden death. 


Follow our social media during this month to learn more about Children’s Cardiomyopathy.

 For more information as well, visit www.childrenscardiomyopathy.org

What to Expect in the Coming Months with COVID-19

As we begin to see families preparing for the next months ahead with back to school and fall we understand there may be concerns about what it will mean since we are still experiencing the COVID-19 Pandemic. Please know that our team at Harboring Hearts is thinking of you and your family during this stressful and unsure time.

In hopes of relieving some concerns you and your family may have, we are linking the CDC’s COVID-19 Portal and the specific section on Back to School. This portal has information on all things related to COVID-19. It has also specific information on what to expect with the rest of summer,  back to school/ fall, travel, and even steps to keep safe while home.

We hope this information will be a helpful guide for you and your family to consider while making decisions on what your next steps will be to keep you and your family safe during this time.

You can find the link to the CDC’s COVID-19 Portal Here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

Job Resources for those Impacted by Covid-19

We recognize the impact COVID-19 has had on patients and their families who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. To help support you and your family we have included in this post link to resources for those seeking employment after their job was impacted by COVID-19. This link has a wide arrange of resources on job searches as well as ways to protect yourself and take precautions while working.

We hope that this will help to support you and your families as you look to return to work safely as New York continues the phases of reopening.

You can access the link here: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/sbs/careers/covid19-jobseeker-outreach.page

The Team at Harboring Hearts is here with you as we navigate these uncertain times.


Understanding New York’s Plans for Reopening

As COVID- 19 restrictions begin to be lifted and places will begin to reopen in New York, we understand that the patients and families we work with may have concerns with what this means and how they will be able to keep themselves safe. We are providing a link to New York State site will information on what the different phases of reopening mean. Also included is information specifically about guidelines and how to continue to protect yourself during this time.

The Harboring Hearts team is thinking about you and your families at this time and we hope this resource will provide information for anyone with concerns or questions with what reopening the state will mean.

The link to the New York State reopening resources can be found here: https://forward.ny.gov/

Be safe and be well.

Resources for Transplant Patients and Families during COVID-19 Pandemic

Facing a pandemic as a patient who has had a transplant, or is waiting for a transplant, is an extremely difficult situation. As we face this journey together, please know that as transplant patients and families you are in the thoughts of the staff at Harboring Hearts and the rest of the transplant community. To help answer some of these questions and concerns we have linked information and resources from the American Society of Transplantation: https://www.myast.org/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-frequently-asked-questions-transplant-candidates-and-recipients# 

We hope you find these resources helpful as we continue, at Harboring Hearts, to provide financial and emotional support to families in need. We hope this link will serve as a guide as we all continue to be vigilant against COVID-19.

Stay safe, we are all in this together.

Supporting your Mental Health during this time.


As we navigate these uncertain times, please know that you and your family are in our thoughts here at Harboring Hearts. There is an emotional and mental toll that can come along with having uncertainty and stress associated with this pandemic: health, housing, food, employment, and so many others. Some helpful exercises to help while at home are meditation and yoga. Exercises such as yoga help to increase endorphins which helps you to feel better and more energized. Taking safe and socially distant walks can help by getting some fresh air and Vitamin D to help lift your mood. New York State has teamed up with Headspace to provide meditation and other exercises to support your mental health, as well as other tips and resources. The link is here: https://www.headspace.com/ny. New York State has also created a helpful document full of resources and tips for those struggling with their mental health. The link can be found here: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2020/03/managing_stress_anxiety.pdf

Please if you need immediate support or help call 1- 800-273-TALK (8255) or text Got5 to 741741. If you know someone who is struggling please check in with them. Also, stay in touch with family and friends. Supporting each other during these times is so incredibly important for our mental health.

We hope these resources help. We are in this together.