When it comes to keeping your heart in good shape, it’s likely you feel you’ve heard it all before: eat a healthy share of vegetables, limit meats, limit carbs, get exercise, don’t smoke, and don’t drink. Any ten year old could probably give you this advice. There are things not on the list, however, that you’re probably not thinking about. And, given February is American Heart Month, we’d like to get you up to speed.
Understand your Goals
Establish your personal goal: Your first step to getting and staying heart-healthy is to understand what your blood pressure should be, and where it’s at now. So, make that visit to the doctor you’ve been putting off, and find out how you’re doing. Once you’ve got a goal in view, it’ll be that much easier to work toward fulfilling it. As they say in the business world, you can’t manage what you don’t measure!
Follow the Plan
Follow your doctor’s recommendations to get you back on track: Once you’ve worked with your doctor to set a plan in motion, be sure to adhere to the advice provided. You may be in marvelous shape and need only to sustain that momentum. Or, you might need to take medication for a short time while exercising your way back to a heart-healthy blood pressure reading. Some may need to be on medication indefinitely. The key, though, is listening to your doctor … they’re so used to people not following their advice, you’ll be surprised by their reaction when they see how well you’re doing. Medication and restrictive diets are not always a full time affair, if you tow the line and take care of yourself. Give it a shot.
Work on bad habits: The biggie here is smoking. If you smoke, ask your doctor for advice on quitting. Eliminating smoking from your life will help your body in so many ways, it’s hard to fathom at the outset – once you’re on the quitting train, though, you’ll marvel at how you ever thought it would be impossible to quit.
Reduce your sodium intake: Too much sodium can increase your blood pressure, and unfortunately, if you’re consuming a majority of food from a can or a box, you’re likely ingesting more than you should. You can also overdo it by salting all those organic veggies you might be buying. So, be judicious with the saltshaker. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have some good advice on cutting back on sodium, as does the American Heart Association’s “Million Hearts” website, which includes recipes and a downloadable 28 day meal plan.
Change the order in which you eat: Everyone knows it’s important to eat more vegetables, and that eating more vegetables helps maintain a healthy weight. And, of course, maintaining a healthy weight is good for your heart. But, did you know eating healthier can be a whole lot simpler if only you ate those veggies first? By consuming vegetables first, you’ll fill yourself up more, and in the end reduce your overall calorie intake. Another trick is to drink a full glass of water before eating, and resisting the urge to cleanse your palate in between bites. By cleansing your palate you may be inclined to eat more than you would otherwise – give it a shot, you might be more than pleased with the results!
Keeping your heart healthy is the way to go. You kinda’ can’t do without it!