Out with the old, in with the new! As we celebrate the start of 2020, we also begin thinking about the infamous new year’s resolution lists that we all make – but do we actually follow them? Does the list include living a more heart healthy lifestyle? The start of a new year is the perfect opportunity to get more active, eat better, be more charitable and learn to manage our stress. To give yourself a better shot at succeeding with your list, it’s important to be accountable – write down your list of resolutions, check it often, and ask yourself: “What am I doing to make this happen?” Here are a few tips to living a more heart healthy lifestyle in 2020:
Get Fit, Get Active
You’ve heard it time and time again – being active helps keep your heart stay in tip top shape. But how do you begin if you’ve never exercised before or if you used to exercise but gave it up, for whatever reason. It’s important to note that being active does not mean becoming a gym rat or breaking out into a sweat with sore aching muscles every time you work out. Being active simply means moving your body. This could be as simple as starting a walking program, which is ideal for those that have limited mobility, are just getting into shape for the first time, or suffer from a heart condition. For people who are already more active or have followed an exercise program in the past, change up your routine! Why not try a new exercise class? Doing different activities ensures that you won’t get bored doing the same thing over and over again. Plus, you get to meet new people – a bonus! Check out an article written by NBCnews.com about The Benefits of Working Out with a Crowd.
*Note: always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Indulging in food and drink isn’t always a bad thing – as long as it’s in moderation. When you indulge all the time, that’s when it becomes a problem and can have a negative impact on your heart health. Choosing heart healthy foods for each meal can reduce your risk of heart disease. Choosing to lead a more heart healthy lifestyle includes making wise food choices and decreasing your sodium intake. When you eat too many salty foods, the excess sodium in your bloodstream pulls water into the blood vessels, which then causes the amount of blood inside them to increase in volume. This results in an increase in your blood pressure, which could lead to a heart attack!
Some heart healthy foods to consider:
- Fruits and vegetables – aim for seven to 10 servings daily
- Whole grain foods – contain fibre, protein and Vitamin B
- Lean proteins – vital to heart health and necessary to build muscle
- Healthy fats – avocadoes, almonds, cashew and peanuts
Check out our previous blog: You Are What You Eat – How Food is Connected to Heart Health.
You might be wondering how charity and heart health are connected. Research has shown that being generous and charitable towards others can contribute to a heart healthy lifestyle. An Oprah.com article suggested that cardiac arrest is connected to how much a person utilizes self-reference pronouns in their speech, such as “I,” “me,” and “my.” By switching the dialogue to focus on others, you can lower your risk of dying from heart disease. A Harvard Medical School study also indicated that adults over age 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who did not give their time to volunteer. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke and even premature death. It’s important to note, however, that volunteering was not the only reason test subjects had lower blood pressure – they likely also adopted a healthier diet and were more active.
Stress is a part of life – we all experience it at some point in our lives, some more than others. If stress affects your overall health, it’s important to learn to manage it. For some, stress consumes them to the point that they lack sleep, eat poorly and make unhealthy life choices. Leading a heart healthy lifestyle also includes learning coping skills. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends the following for dealing with stress:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Cognitive behaviour therapy
- Pursuing personal hobbies/interests
- Spending time with friends and family
- Healthy eating
If 2019 was not a good year, focus on making 2020 a positive and healthy experience. It’s never too late to adopt a more positive lifestyle, which includes eating better and being more accountable for your choices. If you need help staying on track, working with a dietitian and/or personal trainer can be very helpful. More importantly, making lifestyle changes does not happen overnight. Be kind and patient with yourself. Focus on your goals and always look ahead!