Studies have found that roughly 80% of people have given up on their New Year’s resolution by the second week in February. In order to avoid becoming one of these statistics, it’s best to think small and practical when composing your heart-healthy New Year’s resolutions and goals.
Our team of cardiologists offer the following simple tips to help you into 2022:
Create realistic goals
You’re much more likely to achieve your final objective when you set goals you know you can keep. Add a health application to your mobile or write down the goals and put them up on your fridge, or even keep a health diary to remind you of your goals and plans on how to achieve them.
Keep it simple
For example, start with a small 15–20-minute workout that alternates intervals of running and walking. Over time, you’ll be able to build up to that 10-mile goal and improving your own physical capabilities. The same goes with your diet.
Making a lifestyle change can be challenging and achieving 100% success every day is nearly impossible. It is normal to slip-up, but the key is to stay at it and get on back on track as soon as possible.
Work with your health team
With the onset of any new physical changes make sure to get your all clear from your cardiologists or general practitioner before embarking on a new health regime! Testing your blood glucose levels and blood pressure will assist you in making informed decisions regarding your new health objectives.
Here are some focus areas that will help you make a big change in your heart-health in the coming year:
- Lose Weight
The benefits of maintaining a healthy weight yield both short- and long-term benefits. Even a small reduction in weight can have a significant impact on your health for e.g. reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes (a major risk factor for heart disease) by as much as 70%. Being overweight increases the risks of heart related diseases. Adopting fad diets to shed your extra pounds is not necessarily the best approach to yield sustainable, long-term results. Instead, we recommend a lifestyle modification that includes healthy eating and regular exercise.
A practical tip is to keep a daily food diary tracking your caloric intake, the types of food you’re eating, and how much exercise you got that day. Even easier is to download an app on your mobile that will track your food intake and exercise for you without requiring additional effort.
In this way you can also record a list of triggers that cause you to eat more so you can take steps to avoid them
- Improve Your Fitness Regimen
Over 80% of adults fail to meet the guidelines for muscle-strengthening and aerobic activities. This is one of the easiest steps you can take to improve your heart health. Increasing the amount of exercise you get will pay huge dividends, improving your overall level of fitness and helping you maintain a healthier weight.
It’s best to start with small steps. Commit to getting 30-40 minutes of exercise at least four days a week for a month. This allows you to build up your fitness levels, strength and energy levels to improve your motivation and likelihood to stick with your new fitness regimen.
Find ways to make working out more appealing by:
2.1. Identifying activities you enjoy doing. This will help you to stick with your exercise program.
2.2. Find an exercise partner. Working out with a friend can make exercise a more social activity, and you can help motivate each other.
2.3. Join an exercise class.
2.4. Utilize technology to help track your progress and even providing additional motivation e.g. smart watches, or shoe tracking devices etc.
- Reduce Stress
Stress has a debilitating impact on your body and can be devastating for your heart health. Highly stressed individuals tend to have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Taking steps to reduce stress and engaging in relaxation can include:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Reading a book or engaging in a hobby
- Spending time in nature
- Daily walks
- Disengaging from excessive use of computers, mobile phones and other technology.
- Get more sleep
Failing to get enough sleep can have a serious impact on your heart health. It can lead to:
- Increased risk of heart failure and atrial fibrillation
- High blood pressure
- Cause overeating and subsequent weight gain
- Cause inflammation
Follow these tips to help ensure you get the proper amount of sleep and the ability to achieve restful sleep each night:
- Establish a routine where you go to bed at the same time every night.
- Avoid looking at your phone at least 30 minutes before going to bed (the blue light from your screen can make it harder to fall asleep).
- Cut back on caffeine, and don’t consume it in the evening.
- Reduce alcohol intake.
- Sleep in a cool and dark room.
- Do not engage in strenuous physical activities an hour before sleep.
- Rather have a light meal that is not too heavy, rich, or spicy.
- Reduce Your Sugar Intake
A recent Harvard study found that consuming 1 to 2 sugar-sweetened drinks a day increases your risk of heart attack or fatal heart disease by 35%. Omitting these drinks and other sugary snacks entirely will go a long way to improving your heart health.Rather substitute your sweet cravings with fresh fruit.
- Focus on Oral Health
Researchers have found a strong link between your oral health and your heart health. Poor dental health increases the risk of a bacterial infection in the blood stream, which can affect the heart valves. Make sure you brush twice a day, floss once a day, and visit your dentist twice a year for regular cleanings to minimize gum disease.