Do you believe eating healthy or getting fit is impossible for you? Forget the all-or-nothing, I’ll-start-on-Monday approach. Start with small changes that will have a positive impact on your heart health. Pretty soon, these small changes will turn into a new routine and a healthier heart.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a gym membership, food, or supplements. All you need is a commitment to making a few small changes each month. To get started, try cultivating one new routine this month. Next month, add another. You will begin to feel so much better that you will be motivated to continue your new routine long-term.
If you’re new to exercise, start with a 10-minute walk, three or four days a week. The next week, increase the amount of time you walk to 15 or 20 minutes. The next week, bump it up a bit more.
Try walking five minutes away from your house or your starting point at a local park and then walking back. That’s 10 minutes. If you don’t have anywhere to walk, try your local mall.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a week. Cardiovascular exercise is exercise that gets your blood pumping, such as walking, bicycling, Zumba, aerobics, swimming, or jogging. As you get stronger, aim for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
Increase your vegetables
Let’s start with making a commitment to eat just one serving of a vegetable a day. Vegetables are rich in fiber to keep you full as well as vitamins and nutrients to nourish your body. They are also low in calories and fat-free.
Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli are delicious roasted. Spread chopped vegetables on a baking sheet and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with your favorite spices. Roast at 400 degrees until the vegetables are tender and the edges are golden brown.
Drop the sweetened drinks
If you need to lose weight, a simple way to cut calories is to cut out sweetened beverages like soda, juice and sweetened sugary coffee drinks. Watch out for store-bought smoothies and diet sodas, too. They may seem healthy, but smoothies can contain a lot of calories and excess sugar. If you like smoothies, make them at home and consider it a meal rather than something to sip on when you are thirsty.
Diet sodas may be calorie-free, but research has shown they can trick your body into being hungrier later, so skip them. Instead, drink plain water (add a few slices of fresh fruit if you want some flavor), sparkling water, black coffee, or unsweetened tea to stay hydrated.
Reduce and manage your stress
Stress affects all of us and can negatively impact heart health. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce stress: Maintain strong relationships with family and friends, pray, exercise regularly, keep a gratitude journal, meditate, practice yoga, take deep breaths, or partake in your favorite hobby. If you have difficulty overcoming stress in your life, seek professional counseling, which can give you the tools to navigate life’s difficult situations.
Get enough sleep
Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Set an alarm for 30 minutes before bed to signal that it’s time to start winding down for the evening. Many smartphones have apps that can help you with this. Find something that works for you and makes your bedtime routine easy.
Make sure your room is dark, cool, and quiet. Use curtains or shades to block light, set your thermostat between 60 to 67 degrees, and use a white noise machine or fan to block noise.
If you are a smoker, it’s time to quit. I know it’s not easy, so talk to your doctor or nurse about ways you can stop. They can help.
Know your numbers
An important key to heart health is to “know your numbers.” This includes your:
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
- Body mass index (BMI)
To maintain good heart health, see your primary care provider every year for a physical. Find a provider near you at pardeehospital.org/primarycare.