New Year’s Resolutions

This year, make a promise to yourself to get serious about your New Year’s resolutions. Here are a few suggestions on how to keep your heart healthy in 2007:
If you smoke, quit.

Nicotine makes your blood thicker and more likely to clot inside your arteries, leading to cardiovascular disease. Don’t just say you’re going to quit, do it. Divide a piece of paper into four columns. In the first column, make a list of reasons why you smoke and why you enjoy smoking; leave the second column blank; in the third column write down all the trouble smoking causes you (lung issues, bad colds, smelly clothes, stained teeth, expensive) and figure out which problem bothers you the most (rate them); in the fourth column, write down the benefits you’ll get from not smoking (a healthier body, more money, etc.) In the second column, for each item you wrote in the first column, figure out how you’ll achieve that without smoking. When the list is done, choose the three most important reasons why you’re quitting, write them on a note card, and carry that note card with you at all times as a reminder.

Exercise more. Everyone complains that they don’t have the time to work out, but you can make time by mixing in moderate exercise throughout your day. Ten minutes here and ten minutes there add up. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, get up and walk over to your coworker instead of calling them, if you drive to work–park a little farther away than usual. If you’re serious about losing weight (this year I mean it!) watch less TV and go for a walk or run instead, join a fun class (haven’t you always wanted to try kickboxing?), or join an organized sport. Join the Start! Program and participate in the April 28 Twin Cities Heart Walk, featured on page 12. Once you make exercise part of your routine, you’ll wonder why you haven’t done so sooner.

Eat right. A balanced, healthy diet includes five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, two to four servings of dairy products, less fat and sugar, and replacing starchy carbohydrates with whole-grain products. Remember not to overeat. According to the American Heart Association, a serving of meat is equivalent to a deck of cards, a serving of fruits and vegetables will fit into the palm of your hand, a teaspoon of butter is about the size of your thumb tip, and an ounce of cheese is about the size of your thumb.

Know your numbers. Know your blood pressure (systolic and diastolic), height, weight, and waist circumference (in inches), blood cholesterol levels, and blood sugar. If your numbers are too high, make necessary lifestyle changes. Take the Heart Checkup, featured on page 14, to assess your situation.

Relax more. Relaxation isn’t just “not doing anything,” it’s volunteering, doing yoga, focusing on your breathing, or taking the time to enjoy a beloved hobby. People work hard so they can afford to relax later on, then never get around to actually relaxing. Make it a priority.