If you’ve recently been to the doctor and were told that you need to make some heart-healthy lifestyle choices, you may be unsure where to begin. Or maybe you just want to make some healthier decisions with spring approaching. Either way, here are some easy ways to jump start a healthier way of life.
Take your dog for a walk (if you have one).
Moderate exercise on most days of the week is an extremely effective way to improve your heart health. If you exercise for 30 minutes a day, you can lower your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol levels, and maintain a healthy weight. These factors all affect how much strain your heart is under at any given point, and exercise helps reduce that strain.
That being said, a lot of people give up on exercise programs because they don’t have enough motivation, or feel like they don’t have enough time in the day to dedicate to exercise. However, you might find you’re more motivated when you’re looking after the well-being of another – like your dog! Dogs need exercise to stay healthy too, and they love to go on walks! You might find that you’re more willing to dedicate time to your dog’s health, and your health will benefit as a bonus. If you don’t have a dog, many animal shelters allow volunteers to come and walk the shelter dogs.
If dogs are not your thing, whether you’re afraid of them or are allergic, try going on walks with friends or family. Having a partner helps take your mind off the exercise, and you can become creative about your routes too!
Get some sleep.
Sleep? What does sleep have to do with anything?
A lot of things, actually. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people who don’t sleep enough are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease, regardless of other risk factors. When you’re able to sleep for seven to nine hours every night, your heart gets a chance to slow down, and reduce your blood pressure. If you continuously don’t get a good night’s sleep, your heart doesn’t get a break.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep, try to change something about your sleeping environment that’s keeping you awake, or waking you up a lot during the night. It might be hanging up light-blocking curtains or not looking at your phone an hour before you go to bed. If your environment doesn’t seem to be affecting you, consider talking to your doctor about sleep apnea and whether it could be affecting you.
Chill out and relax.
Chill out and relax? But isn’t that the opposite of exercise?
Not necessarily. The idea here is to reduce your stress levels. If you have a hard job, or you’re so busy you don’t have time to take a breath, your heart beats harder and faster, raising your blood pressure and putting you at a greater risk of a heart attack.
Instead, take some time for yourself and dedicate it to lowering your stress. Some people like to practice yoga, as it focuses on deep breathing and relaxation (and bonus: it also counts as exercise!). Others might take up a hobby, such as fishing, painting, writing, or building. You could even spend your time volunteering at a soup kitchen or with children, where you can help other people while you help yourself. There are many options, so choose something that interests you the most and try it out!
Being heart-healthy doesn’t have to be a chore, or just something your doctor lectures you on whenever you go in for your annual check-up. Instead, it can be fun! Spend your Valentine’s Day thinking about not just your loved ones’ hearts, but yours, too.