Is your New Year’s resolution for 2017 to live healthier and get fit? Even with great advances being made in interventional cardiology and other cardiology-related surgeries. Prevention is your greatest defense. Experts say that vague and nebulous resolutions rarely produce the desired result. Breaking down the process and setting small goals with deadlines is key to getting to where you want to be. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Your heart works hard for you every single day. Make a difference for your ticker by working these positive habits into your life one at a time.
- Load Up on the Heart-Healthy Foods
Swap out refined, processed, or high-cholesterol foods. Foods like cookies, white bread, soda, and even fruit juice are what we want to limit. Replace them with fish, nuts, berries, legumes, and whole grains. Eat a high-protein diet, balancing plant, fish, and animal sources of protein.
Hearty healthy foods include spinach, flax seeds, tomatoes, dark beans, broccoli, and papaya. Include one or two servings of these friendly guys in your diet each day. Avoid sugar. One tip is to go for a little spice in place of sweet. Try a dash of cinnamon or vanilla in place of sugar in your diet.
Did you know dark chocolate and wine, in moderation, are actually good for your heart?
- Watch Your Weight
This is a biggie. If you could afford to lose a couple pounds, go ahead and do it. And, it’s not just a matter of how much you need to lose. Studies show that where you carry the extra weight can have a great impact on heart health. Stomach fat, also known as visceral fat, is located closer to the internal organs. This fat is linked to high blood sugar and increased blood pressure.
- Move Your Body
This one is rather straight forward. The goal to aim for is 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week. This means anything that gets your heart rate up and causes you to break a sweat. Yes, this can include sex.
Work up to it. If you are the sedentary type and rarely get out, trying getting out a few times per week. A little something is better than nothing. If you are already getting out there with a little exercise, do more. Standing is better than sitting. Keep an eye on how much time you spend seated. Replace sitting with standing or walking, whenever possible.
- Don’t Let Life Get to You
Next time you’re stuck in traffic or late for an appointment, just breathe. Stress is linked to heart problems galore. Actively watch your day-to-day stress levels. Learn to manage or cut out stress inducers altogether.
Find your unique path to stress relief. Be it a bubble bath, listening to music, or a moment in nature, your heart needs it. Good news: exercise literally melts away stress.
- If You Smoke, Stop!
Smoking is linked to almost 30% of deaths from heart disease. Stay away from cigarettes, real and electronic, as well as second and third hand smoke.
- If You’re a Drinker, Lighten Up!
The incidence of heart disease in those who drink moderately is lower than non-drinkers. But, any more than a couple drinks a day can increase your risk of high blood pressure, weight gain, and stroke. Moderation is the name of the drinking game, as far as your heart is concerned.
- Get a Full Night’s Rest
Sleep, beautiful, lovely sleep. We all know the benefits of a good night’s rest. Yet, somehow we manage to skimp on this simple pleasure. Seven is the lucky number to go for here. Five hours of sleep is just not enough and 9 is too much. And it’s not just about numbers. Quality sleep is what benefits your arteries. If you have trouble falling asleep, take a little time before going to bed to wind down and relax. A little instrumental music or a chapter of a not-too-exciting book might be all your body needs to get in the mood.
The next time you’re tempted to Netflix and chill or just stay up past your bedtime, don’t do it—your heart will thank you.
Keep yourself safe by eating right and living a heart-healthy lifestyle each and every day.