to make your New Year’s resolutions really count this year? Then think about
how some of the vows you make — to lose weight, reduce stress, quit smoking,
exercise more — really get to the heart of the matter.
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you stick to these goals, you may just sail into next year with a healthier
Cardiologist Leslie Cho, MD, says common resolutions often come down to boosting heart health — even though that’s not necessarily the initial intention.
recommends these five heart-healthy resolutions that will serve you well all
1. Resolve to lose weight
No. 1 goal for most Americans is to lose weight — and often that resolution is
one of the first they break,” Dr. Cho says.
think of the benefits you’d reap if you could make steady progress in that area
of your life.
you’re overweight or obese, you increase your risk of:
- Heart disease.
- High cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Blood clots.
To help you keep your resolution, Dr. Cho recommends focusing on lifestyle modification instead of “dieting.” If you set a goal of healthy eating and regular exercise, losing weight is often a natural byproduct. Or you can use our activity calculator to determine how much ― and what type ― of activity you need to reach your goals.
are many apps for your phone or tablet that can help you track your food intake
and exercise. And it helps to understand your triggers so you can avoid them,
she says. (Do you eat more when you’re stressed, bored or in a social setting?)
2. Resolve to get an annual physical
a checkup is a good thing,” says Dr. Cho, who sees many patients who haven’t
been to a doctor in years.
Aside from ensuring that you have no major health problems, a physical allows your doctor to keep tabs on your blood pressure and glucose levels.
or she will also likely discuss physical activity, and drinking, smoking and
eating habits — they all affect your heart health, of course.
A yearly checkup is particularly important for women. They’re more likely to experience less-obvious symptoms of heart disease, Dr. Cho says. Yet many of her female patients only get “bikini medicine,” meaning they pay attention to breast and gynecologic issues but neglect the rest of their bodies.
men and women should get annual physicals to better focus on heart-health risk
modification, she says.
3. Resolve to reduce stress in your life
“Reducing stress should be a goal for the whole country,” Dr. Cho says. “Highly anxious people tend to have more heart attacks and strokes.”
time in your day to do things that help you relax. Try meditation, talking with
friends, getting outside for a walk, reading a book or exercising.
while the internet can sometimes increase your stress levels, it also has
potential to be a tool for good. There are many websites and apps that
will help you calm yourself or embrace reflection and relaxation. They can walk
you through simple breathing exercises or facilitate meditation.
4. Resolve to get more sleep
Shorting yourself on sleep can lead to overeating, heart failure, hypertension and atrial fibrillation, Dr. Cho says.
“Having less sleep consistently can increase blood pressure and cause inflammation,” she adds. “That part of the brain that activates during sleep deprivation is near the part where hunger is, so we know that if you don’t sleep, you eat more.”
for success: To get more ZZZs, Dr. Cho recommends that you:
- Put your phone away long before bedtime.
- Cut back on caffeine.
- Sleep in a cool, dark room.
5. Resolve to stop smoking and/or reduce alcohol and caffeine intake
in moderation is OK. But don’t start now if you don’t drink (even though you’ve
heard red wine is good for you). If you do drink, Dr. Cho recommends no
more than 6 to 8 ounces a day.
less alcohol and caffeinated beverages will help you sleep better and reduce
stress. It may even help you lose weight, by reducing the empty calories you
consume, she says.
smoking cessation is great for your heart — it can significantly lower your
blood pressure and heart rate.
you resolve to make yourself healthier this year, talk to your doctor about
ways to trim down, be more active and relax. You know in your heart those are
all resolutions you can live (longer) with.