Be Kind to Your Heart

By Haroonur Rashid, M.D

To improve your heart health, you have to look at your overall health and take note of your diet, exercise habits and attitude. Good nutrition and daily exercise are vitally important components to heart health, but psychological well-being is also important. Now is the best time to take an inventory of your overall health. The following tips should help to get you started and help you improve your heart health.

  • Get a regular physical assessment. Depending on your age and medical history, and only after an exam and discussion with your personal physician, this checkup might include some tests, such as a lipid panel to test your cholesterol levels, a screen for blood glucose levels, a complete blood count, a metabolic panel and an EKG. This is also a good time to discuss with your physician any vaccinations you may need, such as the hepatitis vaccination and a tetanus booster.
  • Consider an evaluation by a registered and licensed dietitian. A dietitian can assess your current diet and exercise habits in addition to any other diet or nutrition-related condition or disorder you may have.
  • Have an annual dental checkup and an eye exam. Poor dental and vision health are often indicators of overall health.
  • Develop a plan. Based on the evaluations and recommendations of your physician, dietitian, dentist and eye doctor, develop a plan to get yourself back on track to improve your health.
  • Think in positive terms. While there is nothing wrong with resolving to stop eating sweets, it’s more constructive and positive to say, ‘I will eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day.’
  • Be specific. Many people make big, vague resolutions, such as to lose weight, eat healthier or exercise more. The best resolutions are very specific and attainable. Breaking down the big goal of losing weight into smaller chunks will make it easier. If one of your resolutions is, “I will walk for 30 minutes a day, five days a week,” you have a specific goal—something by which to measure your success and keep yourself accountable all year.
  • Replace bad habits with good habits. A bad habit is easier to break if you replace it with a good one. For example, if you’ve gotten into the habit of picking up fast food on the way home from a busy day at work, resolve to find one new healthy and fast recipe every week and add that to your weekly shopping list. If you know that you have the ingredients for a quick, healthy meal at home, it makes hitting the drive-thru easier to resist.