If you are like many people, you’ve probably just made a resolution to improve your health in the New Year. But did you resolve to take steps to improve your heart health? If you didn’t, you might want to reconsider your current New Year’s resolutions.
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. Therefore it is never too soon to start taking steps to protect your heart health. There are some risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including your age and a family history of cardiovascular disease, which you cannot control. There are, however, a number of positive lifestyle choices you can adopt that are good for your heart.
There is no room for debate here – if you smoke, you should quit. Smoking is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease as well as several types of cancer. People can reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease by half within one year of quitting smoking, according to the American Medical Association.
Eat heart smart.
Your dietary choices can have a major impact on your heart health. Eat a diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grain foods, such as breads and Quaker Oatmeal, and lean cuts of poultry and fish. Try to keep your consumption of foods that are high in sugar and fat, such as candy, ice cream, red meat and full-fat dairy products, to a minimum.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderately strenuous exercise most days of the week. Split your workout up into 3 or 4 shorter increments if you can’t squeeze a full workout into your schedule. If you have been physically inactive for a long time, however, be sure to consult with your family physician before you start any exercise routine.
Know your cholesterol numbers.
Have your cholesterol numbers checked at least once a year. If your low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol number is high, your odds of developing cardiovascular disease greatly increase. Diets rich in foods that are high in dietary fiber have been shown to have a number of beneficial effects, including decreased risk of coronary heart disease. You might also want to make some simple lifestyle changes, like eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and starting your day with Quaker Oatmeal to help lower your cholesterol.
Watch your weight.
If you are overweight, your chances of developing cardiovascular disease are higher. Losing 10% of your excess weight can help lower your likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. Work with your physician or dietitian to find a healthy eating plan that will work for you.
Learn to relax.
If you find yourself frequently getting stressed, you may be putting your heart health at risk. Stress can cause your blood pressure to rise, which can damage your heart over time. It may also lead you to seek stress relief from unhealthy habits such as drinking, smoking or binging on comfort foods. When your stress level starts to rise, take a few minutes to do some mediation or yoga to help relieve your stress. Take some time for yourself each day doing something you enjoy, such as taking a soothing bath or reading a book, to help you relax.