New Year's Resolutions to Boost Your Heart Health

Heart-Healthy New Year's Resolutions



As a new year gets going, you might wonder what you can do to make this year your best one yet. One way to do that is to focus on the small things you can do to improve your heart health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the U.S.1 and is responsible for about one-quarter of all deaths.



With any New Year's resolution, the secret to success is to start small and set attainable goals. After you set your resolutions, map out a plan, such as the one below, to help yourself achieve them.



1. Schedule Your Annual Physical



Good heart health starts with good overall health. If it's been a while since you've seen your doctor for an annual physical or had routine bloodwork performed, get on the phone or online to book an appointment for a preventative care visit.



Seeing your family physician for a routine physical gives them a chance to evaluate your body and detect any early signs of a problem. Your physician will likely order bloodwork after your exam, which will include blood glucose and cholesterol levels.



If you need a little push to get that appointment on your calendar, set aside 10 minutes before work on a Monday. Call your doctor or use their online appointment scheduler to set up your physical. Then, set a reminder in your phone or email so you won't miss the appointment.



2. Start Meditating 15 Minutes a Day



Stress can raise your risk of a heart attack or stroke. If you want to cut back on stress in your life, it's a good idea to start with a single, actionable step.



For example, you can start meditating for 15 minutes a day. If that sounds like too much, try 15 minutes a week or 15 minutes every other day.



You don't need a lot to meditate. A comfortable seat and a quiet corner will suffice. You can use an app such as Headspace or simply close your eyes and focus on your breathing.



If meditation really isn't for you, another way to relax is through yoga. You can find plenty of yoga videos on YouTube. Some are just 10 or 15 minutes long and focus on helping you relax and unwind.



3. Improve Your Sleep Hygiene



Not getting enough sleep increases your risk of heart disease, as well as diabetes, depression, and obesity2. Yet, around one-third of adults struggle to get a full night's sleep2.



If that's you, there are things you can do to help yourself get a more restful sleep. First, take a look at the lighting in your room. It can be difficult to sleep in a room that's too well-lit. You might want to hang up blackout blinds or invest in heavier curtains.



Also consider the temperature of your room. Turning down the heat at night will help you sleep better and will save you money on energy bills.



Make a few small changes to your habits to improve your sleep, too. Keep your phone and other electronics out of the bedroom so you aren't staring at the screen while trying to doze.



About an hour or two before bed, start a sleep countdown. Put on your PJs and start unwinding. That can involve putting your phone away for the night and reading a book or magazine.

4. See Your Dentist



Although your teeth and gums seem far removed from your heart, having untreated gum disease can increase your risk of heart disease. Seeing your dentist for regular exams and cleanings can help keep gum disease under control.



Similar to making your appointment for an annual physical, set aside 10 minutes on a Monday to set up an appointment with your dentist. After your first appointment, schedule your next one before leaving the office to help you stay on track.



5. Make Small Food Swaps



Big resolutions like "lose weight" or "eat more healthily" tend to be hard to stick to because they are so grand. Instead, find two or three small changes you can make to your diet to help improve your heart health.



One change might be to eat a meatless meal for dinner one day a week. Another might be to replace a serving of red meat with fish or another lean protein.



6. Schedule a Daily Walk



Physical activity helps to strengthen the heart and one of the easiest ways to increase your activity levels is by walking. FiInd time to take a short walk every day. Even going for just a mile will help you get your blood flowing.



If you do have trouble sticking to your New Year's resolutions, don't give up. Keep at it and you'll see an improvement in your health and well-being in the long run.



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Sources:  

1. Heart Disease Facts, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

2. Sleep and Sleep Disorders, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html



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