Like many of our patients, we also struggle with issues and setbacks when it comes to trying to lose weight. It seems like there is enough pressure on individuals in our society to lose weight in order to become more attractive, look a certain way, or to fit into the smaller end of clothing sizes. Instead of thinking about weight loss as a means to look differently, you may consider altering your reasons for losing weight or changing dietary or fitness activities to improving overall heart health.
It’s all about your ticker!
There is no doubt that heart disease is a major problem in the US. The CDC estimates that about 610,000 people die of heart disease each year in our country, which is 1 in every 4 deaths! Furthermore, the CDC reports that every year, 735,000 Americans have a heart attack, 525,000 of which are a first heart attack and 210,000 of which have already had one. (Along with these figures, you can also find a ton of great information by clicking here)
The following 6 tips can be small changes that will have a huge impact on the health of your heart.
1. Quit smoking – We know that this is a big one, and a lot of people have tried and failed to quit, but the attempt at quitting is in itself a small victory. Making the decision to quit is a step in progress! Smoking has huge impacts on the health of the heart by increasing blood pressure, increasing the likelihood of blood clotting, as well as making it more difficult to exercise overall. (The American Heart Association is a fantastic source for how smoking impacts the heart)
2. Get more sleep – We imagine that everyone would like to get a little bit more shut-eye each night, but unfortunately that is easier said than done. However, The National Sleep Foundation suggests that those individuals that do not get enough sleep have a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, and while it is not entirely clear why that is, there are several compelling reasons why this may be the case.
3. Limit alcoholic drinks to no more than one or two per day – The American Heart Association also weighs in here by saying that too much alcohol can raise levels of certain fats in the blood. Other effects may include heart failure and high blood pressure.
4. Make healthier dietary choices – This tip itself could fill up volumes of books, but can include reducing salt intake, avoiding too much saturated fat (and of course trans fats, goodness, why are these still even used?!), eating more fish and lean proteins, and eating more whole grains.
Think about this tip as the snack replacement method. If you happen to have an insatiable sweet tooth (like some of us have) and you’re craving something sweet, try snacking on some fruit (or better yet, vegetables) to satisfy the desire for a sugary treat. There is a lot of information out there that explains the many health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables in the diet.
5. Cut back on sugar – Of course we’ve already touched on this in the tip above, however we are going to extend this tip to the idea of not drinking your calories. We know we should be cutting back sweets, but consider this: How much soda do you drink per day? Do you drink very sugary fruit juices? It’s probably safe to say that fruit juices are generally healthier than soda. Although, when examining the sugar content, both drinks are on a pretty even playing field. There is an interesting report that came out of the Harvard School of Public Health that discussed consuming higher quantities of fruit juice was linked to higher risks of type 2 diabetes. Next time consider grabbing a big ol’ glass of ice water (or room temperature water if you prefer).
6. Become more active – This one is a doozy. Many people want to become more active, if nothing more than for the sake of feeling better overall. We’re still in the “honeymoon phase” of New Year’s resolutions (which some of us have never been terribly fond of – think additional source of disappointment when they fail), however, now is as good time as ever to make new goals when it comes to being active. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go out and get a gym membership (but certainly feel free to) or spend a lot of money on home fitness equipment.
Try to do something each day that will get your heart rate elevated enough to break a sweat (even if it is just a little sweat). This might mean taking the stairs up to the office, or walking during your lunch break (if you’re fortunate enough to have one!). There are oodles of websites dedicated to providing fitness tips and workouts that can be done anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes at home with no equipment needed. Even if you have failed in the past getting a bit more active, get back up on that horse and try again! The only thing stopping you is you!
Developing habits of healthy living takes time, try not to get discouraged. Try to make small changes in things you do often.