New Year, New You: 10 Heart-Healthy New Year’s Resolutions
The start of a new year brings new beginnings — a chance to reflect on past behaviors and identify areas for improvement. Now’s the time to get yourself together and sail into next year with a healthier heart. If you’re not sure how to begin, take a look below at these heart-healthy New Year’s resolutions designed to keep you on the right track all year round. For further information regarding how you can maintain heart-healthy habits into the next year and beyond, don’t hesitate to reach out to a Tampa heart doctor like Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC.
1. Manage Your Stress
Did you know that stress can contribute to factors that increase your risk of heart disease, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, in addition to insomnia and frequent headaches? Many people also resort to eating junk food or drinking alcohol to try and cope. To better manage your stress, you’ll want to practice self-care, develop routines, and learn to pause when you begin to feel overwhelmed.
2. Sleep Regularly
Not getting enough sleep can lead to hypertension, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, and more. Instead of taking naps to try and catch up on a few extra minutes of shuteye, we recommend trying to wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day and developing a bedtime routine. Spending an hour before bed doing a relaxing activity rather than playing on your phone will go a long way in terms of sleep quality.
3. Cut Down On Caffeine
Speaking of sleep, another great way to get more rest and lower your blood pressure is to lay off the caffeine. You can start by mixing together decaffeinate coffee with regular coffee or by adding more water to your coffee each day. Also be sure to be mindful of how much soda and other sugary beverages you’re consuming.
4. Exercise More
By now, we all know that at least 150 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity per week is critical to maintaining peak physical performance and preventing heart disease. However, sticking to this resolution isn’t always as easy as it seems. Rather than jumping straight into 30 minutes of cardio per day, we recommend starting out with walking and slowly increasing the intensity levels of your workout without overdoing yourself. Need more help? Reach out to one of our Tampa cardiac specialists!
5. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Studies have consistently shown that people who regularly eat fruits and vegetables in their diet have the lowest risk for stroke and heart attack because of the vitamins and minerals found in these foods. Since the USDA recommends eating 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, your resolution should be to fill at least half of your plate with either food group each meal. Canned fruits and vegetables should also be rinsed off before eating as they often contain additional salt or sugar.
6. Quit Smoking
Most people know that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer and other breathing problems, but few realize that it also greatly increases the risk of a number of heart problems, including coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease, and stroke. Going into the New Year is a great opportunity to kick the habit of smoking by creating your own plan or joining a support group.
7. Avoid Processed Foods
Eating ultra-processed foods like packaged snacks, sugar cereals, and instant soup may leave you more prone to heart disease, early death, and a number of other negative consequences. This is because these processed foods often contain chemicals like aspartame, hydrogenated oils, and texturing agents. To avoid these foods, you’ll want to stick to fresh fruit and vegetables and keep a close eye on the food labels.
8. Lose Weight
Being 20 percent overweight or more significantly increases your risk for both coronary heart disease and heart attack, particularly if you have a lot of abdominal fat. However, we also recognize that getting down to your ideal body weight may seem a little bit more than daunting. Fortunately, shedding even as few as 7 to 10 pounds has been proven to reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes (a major risk factor for heart disease) by up to 70 percent.
Related: Diabetes and Your Heart
9. Eat More Fiber-Rich Foods
Like fruits and vegetables, studies have shown that eating foods high in fiber has great heart benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation. These are foods like barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts, carrots, celery, and tomatoes. To make this transition, you might find it beneficial to replace foods you currently eat with whole grain options, like brown or wild rice and whole-grain pasta.
10. Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Heavy drinking has been shown to lead to a variety of negative health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, and cardiomyopathy. Alcohol can also contribute to obesity. To curb this habit, you’ll want to try replacing the alcohol in your home with other healthy drink options or buying smaller glasses. For a patient advocate and nutrition-focused heart specialist in Tampa who can help you stick to these resolutions and form a tailored treatment plan using the latest technology available, contact Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC.
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