Like many people, you’ve probably set a fitness or health goal as one of your New Year’s resolutions. Is improving your heart health part of that plan? If not, it probably should be: heart disease is the number one cause of death among women in the United States. Be sure to speak with your physician about your diet and exercise plans before you start to work on improving your heart health by including these goals in your overall healthy living plan:
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines suggest eating a varied, nutrient-dense, diverse diet with foods from all across the different food groups. Try to get as many different colors on your plate as possible. Consider planning your meals around what vegetables you are going to prepare, instead of meat. Fill your plate with vegetables first. Healthy avocados are a good source of fiber (3g per 50g serving), contributing 11% daily value to ones diet while adding variety to the diet.
1. Consume more lean meat. You don’t have to go vegetarian or vegan to boost heart health. Swap in lean animal protein like chicken and fish into a few meals each week. And for every meal you prepare with red meat, try making the next meal a vegetarian one.
2. Cut down on added sugar. Identify one thing that makes up the majority of your sugar intake. Do you drink a lot of sugary sodas or decadent flavored coffees? Do you have a hard time saying no to a baked dessert? Try to replace one tempting treat that you tend to indulge in often with something less sugary.
3. Find a perfect herbal tea to replace that soda. Stock your fridge with fruit to finish off dinner. Most importantly, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines suggest swapping the snacks you eat to those that are nutrient-dense. Natural sugars are fine. Just make sure they come with natural vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other wholesome components that make up nutrient-dense fruits like avocados.
4. Move your body. The American Heart Association recommends at least 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or 150 minutes of more moderate activity, every week. Aim for a combination of both to get the most benefits. You can set a step goal, head to the gym before work, and plan an after-dinner walk with the family each evening. Just don’t overdo it! A few hours a week is enough, especially if you are new to exercising. You don’t want to hurt yourself, or burn-out early.
5. Relax. This one may seem as obvious as it seems impossible, but just try not to overthink it. The most important thing is to just take some time for yourself when you can. Focus on the here and now. Breathe deeply and freely, even if it’s only for 30 seconds each hour. Any mindfulness practice that you can embrace and make your own can potentially improve your cardiac health… and help you stay on top of any other resolutions!