Heart and Vascular

Steps to a Healthy Heart

man stretches outside

It’s common to think that your fate is sealed if heart disease runs in your family or you have risk factors like diabetes, obesity, or smoking. But you can work toward reducing your risk by trying one of the following heart-healthy tips each day for a month.

Week one:

  • Park and walk. Skip the parking spot right near the door. Park farther away from your destination and enjoy the energy you’ll gain by getting in some extra steps.
  • Say no to dessert. Save dessert for those special occasions and truly savor every bite!
  • Hydrate. Our bodies are made up of 70% water, so be sure to continually hydrate throughout the day. Be sure to replace whatever water you may lose during a workout or from sweating.
  • Eat two cups of leafy greens a day. Kale, spinach, arugula, and cabbage are rich in heart-healthy fiber and vitamins K and potassium.
  • Warm up before a workout. If you’re heading out for a run, start by walking. Then slowly work your way up so you gradually increase your heart rate. Give your muscles a chance to get loose and warm instead of going straight from “cold.”

Week two:

  • Take the stairs. Skip the modern conveniences like the escalator and elevator and head for the stairs.
  • Eat three ounces of nuts and seeds a day. Pumpkin seeds and nuts, like almonds and cashews, can help relax artery muscle tissue and help naturally lower blood pressure.
  • Try a new sport or activity to keep your body guessing and improve your fitness.
  • Give up a bad habit like smoking or drinking too much alcohol. It may be hard, but the benefits are worth it!

Week three:

  • Aim for 6-9 hours of sleep each night. Sleeping too much or too little may actually raise your risk of heart disease. Shortened sleep can increase C-reactive protein, which is associated with higher levels of inflammation in the body. Less sleep has also been shown to increase hypertension, possibly because blood pressure naturally lowers during sleep.
  • Slow down to reduce stress. Give yourself enough time to get the most important things done so you don’t always feel like you’re in a race.
  • Get organized. This may be the key to helping you slow down and ultimately reduce stress. Use a to-do list to help you focus on the most important tasks.
  • Wear a pedometer. Track how many steps you take on average every day and challenge yourself to increase your steps the following week. Aim for 10,000 steps each day. But why stop there? Go for it!

Week four:

  • Sneak more fitness into your workday. Take five-minute stretch breaks throughout the day, try walking meetings, or stand while on the phone.
  • Find a fitness partner to help keep you motivated and/or accountable.
  • Take advantage of the fitness center at work. Sneak in a quick workout at lunchtime or before or after work. Check to see if your employer or health insurance carrier offers any incentives for nearby fitness club memberships.
  • Walk briskly for 30 minutes a day. It doesn’t take hours of punishing workouts to lower your heart disease risk. Regular cardiovascular exercise optimizes blood flow and strengthens the cells in the lining of your arteries that help fight inflammation and plaque buildup.

Try a new tip each day to strive for a heart-healthier you!