Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 1, 2014
This is the time of year when we traditionally make bold resolutions to improve our health or some other aspect of our lives. But how do we turn those resolutions into solutions?
Focus on a goal that is measurable, achievable, and has the potential to significantly impact your life. One such goal is improving your heart health.
Everyone can do something to improve their heart health, as long as they follow a reasonable plan. Below are some helpful – and reasonable – tips from our Cardiovascular Wellness Service team for getting your heart in shape and lowering your heart disease risks.
Physical activity is great for your heart health and much more. We use the term “activity” instead of “exercise,” because you don’t need to exert yourself too much to have a positive effect. A 175 lb person burns about 75 calories during an hour of sleep, so imagine what you could do with a little effort!
Walking is one of the best physical activities for improving your health. It can reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, and breast and colon cancer, and improve your bone health. Low-impact activities, such as walking, also are ideal for weight-loss, burning 35 percent more calories from fat than during aerobic exercise, such as running.
Incorporating this healthy activity into your daily routine is easy. By walking instead of driving to the store, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, you can increase your activity levels without having to go to the gym. To help you get motivated, consider walking with a buddy or joining a walking club.
Experts recommend that you aim for 10,000 steps a day, which is equivalent to about five miles. Don’t be intimidated by these numbers. These days, you can easily track your steps by using a pedometer or smart phone app, and you might be surprised at how quickly you reach your goal.
But, yes, it’s a bit cold outside right now, and you might not be enthusiastic about walking around town. Consider adding one of the following indoor activities to supplement your shorter strolls (280 cal/hr) during the winter months – stretching (180 cal/hr), household cleaning (207 cal/hr), or yoga (238 cal/hr).
Easy Ways to Improve Your Diet
You don’t have to dramatically change your diet to reap significant heart health rewards. Here are two minor changes that can have a major impact:
- Decrease sodium – By limiting your salt intake to the U.S. guideline of 1,500 mg or less per day, you can help greatly reduce risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Simply avoiding processed and prepared foods and condiments packed with salt, such as soy sauce, will go a long way toward keeping you under the 1,500 mg threshold. A tasty strategy for further reducing your sodium intake is to replace salt with healthy garlic as your seasoning of choice. Try it!
- Eat “power foods” – These foods are rich in nutrients, low in calories, and boast a number of health benefits. Examples of these foods are nuts (almonds), fruits (apples), whole grains (oatmeal, brown rice), and most vegetables.
Please visit www.brighamandwomens.org/cvwellness to get more information about why a healthy diet and physical activity are important for your heart.
ClimbAmerica! is a special fundraiser in which participants climb Boston’s tallest buildings to help fight heart disease. The next ClimbAmerica! event is scheduled for 9am, Sunday, January 26, 2014, at 53 State Street (Tower and Exchange Building) in Boston. To help climbers summit this 40-story structure, BWH experts have developed a six-week training program.
Have a happy and healthy New Year!