By: Katie P. Baker
People make New Year’s resolutions every year — to break a bad habit, to lose weight, to get organized, to save up for that big trip. Many resolutions revolve around better health. But what does “better health” mean, and what concrete steps can you take, especially when it comes to your heart health? Here are a few suggestions to make your New Year’s resolution stick.
A healthy heart is an active heart. A person with a healthy heart can do all the things they want to do in life without chest pain, or shortness of breath. They know and understand their “numbers” – blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body mass index.
Suggestions for a healthy heart:
One of the best ways to improve your heart health is physical activity. Optimally, a person should aim for twenty to thirty minutes of light to moderate exercise every day, five times a week, or as often as you can. If you can’t start with five times a week, start slow and work your way up a bit at a time. Make the activity something you will enjoy, like a daily walk with a neighbor or friend — it’s the best way to ensure you will stick with it for the long term.
A healthy diet is a vital cornerstone of heart health. If you don’t already follow a heart-conscious diet program, start by increasing your intake of fruit, nuts, whole grains and vegetables. When you shop, try to stay on the outside edge of the grocery store (that’s where they keep the healthy stuff). As with exercise, you can scale up your efforts a bit at a time. Make one healthy decision a day, such as opting for a glass of water instead of a soda, or black beans instead of refried when you visit the Mexican restaurant. Even a small start is a start!
This will come as no surprise, but bears repeating: if you’re a smoker, and want a healthy heart, quit smoking now. Smoking increases your risk of having a heart attack. You can talk with a doctor at VCS to learn more about quitting and discuss your options for medication or other assistance. A regular follow-up with a physician for accountability can help you kick the smoking habit for good.
A healthy weight can help improve your heart health dramatically. Find out what your ideal weight is, set a goal, and put together a weight loss plan with your doctor. Improved fitness means improved cardiovascular health as you build muscle and lose weight. Have a conversation with your doctor to help manage your expectations and set clear, manageable goals.
Fear is not always the best motivator for getting healthy. If you’re worried about the state of your heart health, VCS offers a variety of screening exams that may be a good fit for assessing your current heart health. We can help pick the most appropriate test for you by speaking with doctors and determining your needs and risk factors.
One of the best things you can do for your health? Get organized! Get your health records together and organize your documented visits. Make sure your medication lists are up to date, and bring them with you when you visit a doctor. This will help provide a more accurate picture of your health needs.
The New Year is here – don’t postpone incorporating small changes into your life to reach your goal of heart health. For additional information on screening tests offered by VCS call 804-288-4827 or visit our preventative cardiology page.
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Published June 14, 2019