We are almost half way through American Heart Month! With Heart Disease affecting so many people, it is important to understand how you can prevent it before it even starts. Everyone is at risk for heart disease no matter what but there are several things that put you at a higher risk such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, age, stress, health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Living a healthy lifestyle can be tough at times, but it is extremely important. After all, you only have one life to live!
The first and easiest step you can take to maintaining not just a healthy heart but a healthy lifestyle is exercise! It is very easy, especially as you age, to get into a sedentary way of life. You may have other health or mobility issues that keep us from staying active, maybe you are “too busy” because of your family or work obligations, maybe you do not care for physical activity (ahem… being lazy), or you want to be more active but have no idea where to start. Staying active does not have to require intense workouts. Try to dedicate at least 30 minutes to yourself to get some physical activity in each day. A quick stroll around the office throughout the day or on your lunch break would be a great way to start. Wake up early and take the dog out for a walk. Walking is a very low-impact and effective way to get in some good quality physical activity and you do not need to pay a monthly gym membership fee to do it. There are also plenty of other free, online resources you can use to squeeze in a good workout from the comfort of your own home from body weight exercises you could do while watching your favorite TV show, to YouTube videos to get your heart rate up.
The next best thing you can do for yourself is maintain a healthy diet. Developing and maintaining a healthy diet is not as restrictive or difficult as many people think it is. It can be very intimidating, especially if you are starting from scratch, but it is a lifestyle change that you will benefit from for the rest of your life. The key is balance. You need to consume a wide variety of foods so your body can absorb all the nutrients, vitamins, and anti-oxidents it needs to stay healthy. Make sure you are giving yourself plenty of vegetables and fruits and sticking to the recommended portions of protein and carbs and be sure to limit unhealthy fats. One of the biggest things people struggle with is not only resisting the urge to consume things that are not that healthy is to eat way more than they need to. It is okay to have anything in moderation, but you need to try to resist over eating, especially when it comes to your favorite foods that are not very healthy such as pizza, mac ‘n cheese, French fries, chips or whatever else your heart desires. Portion control is very important so make sure to pay attention to how much you are eating.
Maintaining a healthy weight goes hand in hand with staying physically active and eating a healthy diet. Most people tend to gain weight as they get older because they become less active, do not take care of themselves as well because they are taking care of their family, or any other wide variety of reasons. Your weight affects your health as a whole, not just your heart health. Staying at a healthy weight and maintaining a healthy weight can be tough, especially if you have weight to lose first. If you do not already incorporate healthy eating and physical activity into your routine, try starting out small. Incorporate physical activity in slowly at first and gradually increase the frequency or intensity of your workouts, then start balancing out your meals. As time goes on it will become easier to stick to your regular exercise and healthy eating habits. Set up small, achievable goals for yourself along the way. It is incredibly rewarding to set a goal for yourself and achieve it. It could be a goal as simple as walking for 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week or cutting out only soda at first and then gradually reducing any other unhealthy foods you consume regularly.
Once you start implementing these steps to create a healthy lifestyle, you will not only feel better physically and mentally but you will be doing yourself a huge favor in the long run. Don’t forget to consult with your Doctor about your health regularly. If you have questions or need guidance on what you can do to improve your health, just ask them, they are more than happy to help! After all, they are your Doctor and that is what they are there for.