- Know your numbers. High cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure are major risk
factors for heart disease. Optimal total cholesterol should be under 200, fasting blood sugar under 100 and blood pressure under 120/80.
- Stop smoking cigarettes. Get counseling, nicotine replacement or drug therapy (if needed) and find a group program to help you stop. Check out Meriter’s Smoking Cessation Program.
- Pay attention to signs and symptoms of heart disease. Report any chest pressure/discomfort (including back, neck, jaw) along with shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea or stomach upset at rest or with activity to your health care provider. If these symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1.
- Avoid the “all-or-nothing” mindset. Instead, try the “something is better than nothing” approach. So, if you can’t fit in your 30-minute workout routine, take a 10 minute walk instead. Remind yourself that even small changes can lead to significant improvements in health.
- Simply pay attention. Most of us operate on autopilot a lot of the time. To make yourself more aware, find an inexpensive, brightly colored bracelet, even a rubber band will suffice. Each time you catch sight of your new accessory, ask yourself if there is something that you could do to positively influence your health.
- Get a pedometer. These gadgets are a great way to get an objective measure of your physical activity. Start recording your total daily steps to get a sense of your baseline activity level. Figure out what you need to increase your total number steps each day. Competition, even with yourself, is a great motivator!
- Consume a more plant-based diet. Continue to enjoy the healthy and delicious Mediterranean diet by filling up 2/3 of your plate with vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. Incorporate more meatless meals, starting with one meal each week and gradually increasing from there.
- Choose liquids over solids. Replace solid fats, such as butter and cheese, with heart healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds and oils. Limit fat portions due to high caloric content. An example of this would be to add 1 Tbsp. of nuts to a salad or drizzling 1 tsp. of olive oil over your vegetables.
- Practice portion control. Small changes over time really add up. Some suggestions include: switching to a smaller plate at meals, taking ½ your meal home when dining out at restaurants or leave a few bites of food on your plate at meals.
- Exercise. Regular exercise can help you lose or maintain weight and can reduce your risk of heart disease. Strive for 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. You can do the 30 minutes all at once, or break it up into 10 or 15 minute increments. Walking, bicycling, swimming and other activities that increase your heart rate are best.
- Move more, Sit less. Find ways to build activity into your day. Instead of the elevator, take the stairs. Get up from your desk every hour or so, and try standing while you are on the phone or working on the computer. Park farther away. Keep a set of small weights next to your favorite chair and pump iron while you watch TV.
- Breathe. There is a relationship between your emotions, high stress and heart disease. Ever notice that when you are angry or upset you breathe faster and less deep? Simply slowing your breathing down can calm you down.
To get started on your path to wellness, contact Meriter Women’s HeartCare – a comprehensive heart program designed for women, by women. Call 608.417.6447 to schedule a heart health risk assessment or visit meriterheart.com.