How to Keep your Heart Healthy in the New Year
If you’re starting the new year with some resolutions, there’s no better one to embark on than your health, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with a health problem that affects your heart—high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar, for example. Why not take steps this year to make some heart health resolutions? Here’s 7 to get you started:
Get Screened. If you haven’t seen the doctor recently, make an appointment for a heart screening, which includes checking blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), cholesterol, blood glucose and other heart risk assessments.
Listen to your Heart. High blood pressure makes your heart pump harder and causes artery walls to bulge or burst. High cholesterol encourages the accumulation of plaque in the arteries and high blood sugar or diabetes causes inflammation of blood vessels and turns out more plaque-forming cholesterol. It’s important to know your numbers and regularly monitor them at the doctor’s office and at home. The AliveCor Mobile Heart Monitor collects and records heart rhythms and immediately detects atrial fibrillation (AFIB), an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clot, stroke and heart complications. Try an Omron Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor or an Omron Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor to accurately and portably keep track of your blood pressure.
Boost your Diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and cold water fish helps protect your heart. Pledge to eat more of these heart healthy foods. Limiting saturated fat and eliminating trans-fats is another heart health step in the right direction. Both the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and the Mediterranean diet are great examples to follow.
Move More. The American Heart Association recommends exercising 30 minutes at least five days a week. But even if you can’t meet that, getting more daily exercise can reduce your risk of fatal heart disease. Try several 10 or 15 minute sessions when you’re pressed for time. And when you combine more physical activity with other lifestyle changes, like eating heart healthier and maintaining the proper weight, the heart health pay offs can be huge. You needn’t do anything fancy. Shovel the driveway, clean the house, and stack the wood pile. Move more.
Ditch Smoking. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, and narrow the arteries causing atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart attack. If you’re still lighting up—even socially, stop. Smoking increases blood pressure and heart rate and forces your heart to work harder. If you’re struggling, talk to your doctor about the best methods to successfully quit.
Increase your Sleep. It’s a myth that as we age we need less sleep. What happens is we may have a harder time falling asleep. The National Sleep Foundation says 44 percent of seniors wrestle with insomnia a few nights a week. What’s more, changes in sleep architecture (getting to bed earlier and rising earlier) disrupt the circadian rhythm as we age making sleep more elusive. But not getting enough sleep can have a significant impact on your health, which can contribute to weight gain, brain fog and lower your immunity, making you more vulnerable to illness. Talk with your doctor if you have a problem getting a full night’s sleep more than a few times a week.
See your Friends. We know social isolation has negative consequences for heart health but having a more diverse social network has been shown to improve cardiovascular health. Get out of the house and meet with friends. Catch a show, grab lunch, and make a point to be around friends and family more often in the New Year. It’s one simple, pleasurable heart healthy resolution.
There’s no better time than the beginning of a New Year to commit to healthier heart practices and take control of your health in a positive way. It’s always important to check with your doctor before beginning a new diet or fitness plan. Then get 2016 off to a healthy start.