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Heart health resolutions

When setting goals for the coming year think beyond switching up your gym regimen and picking up a few healthier eating habits. While those are great resolutions, it's easy to lose focus. You're more likely to stay motivated if you tie your resolutions to a big-picture goal, such as taking control of your heart health. Sticking to your heart-healthy New Year's resolutions will leave you looking and feeling better than any diet. Here's where to start.

New Year's resolution: vow to reduce stress

Stress contributes to heart disease, especially for those people with a type-A personality. Studies have shown a connection between stress and heart attacks. Beyond that, stress also makes people more likely to pick up unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking, and not sleeping. To help manage your stress, try the following tips:

  • Identify your stressors so you can deal with them head-on.
  • Take control, and change the things you can.
  • Use tried-and-true stress-reducers such as exercise, deep breathing, and focused imagery to let out your emotions.

New Year's resolution: vow to get more exercise

Here's some motivation: Research shows you can increase your life span by two hours for every hour of exercise. It's one of the best ways to keep healthy and resolve to get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least five days a week. And it's not only good for your heart. To get the most benefit for your heart out of your workout, try these tips:

  • Find an aerobic activity you enjoy, such as walking, swimming, or cycling. These aerobic activities are rhythmic and repetitive, so they get your heart beating and your big muscles moving. If you like classes we have something for everyone here at the Wellness Center, from cycling to water aerobics.
  • Work out at the same time every day so it can more easily become part of your daily life.
  • Exercise enough to break a sweat and increase your heart rate.

New Year's resolution: vow to watch your blood pressure

Everybody should know their blood pressure and know what's normal: 120 on top and 80 on the bottom. To keep track of your blood pressure levels, especially if they're high or borderline-high, consider buying a home blood pressure monitor. Then record your levels in a book. Keeping track of your blood pressure daily or weekly is a healthy habit that can help you and your doctor get your numbers under control.

New Year's resolution: vow to learn your heart health family history

Being familiar with the family history of your parents, brothers, and sisters is an important part of your heart disease risk assessment. Here are some important questions you should know the answers to:

  • Is there any family history of heart disease, stroke, or heart attack?
  • Is there any family history of high blood pressure, especially at an early age?
  • Most importantly, is there any history of a heart attack in a male before age 50 or a female before age 60?

New Year's resolution: vow to know your cholesterol adults

should have their cholesterol checked once a year and this is especially important if you have a family history of early heart disease or early high cholesterol. Use these numbers as a guide for what's healthy:

  • Total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL
  • LDL "bad" cholesterol of less than 130 mg/dL
  • HDL "good" cholesterol of 60 mg/dL or higher

New Year's resolution: vow to eat right for better heart health

In addition to physical activity and taking control of your risk, the food you eat is important. Some ways to keep healthy through your diet include:

  • Substitute red meat with proteins such as fish and chicken several times every week.
  • Include a combined seven servings of fruits and vegetables into your diet every day.
  • Switch to whole grains instead of processed grains as much as possible.

Each of these resolutions is great on its own, but keeping all of them can help reduce your risk for heart attack, stroke, and other cardiac problems. Why not resolve to make them healthy habits you keep for a lifetime?