Exercise is probably one of the top things on your New Year’s resolutions list. You’ve heard it before … vigorous aerobic exercise three to five times a week for at least 30 minutes is key to a healthy heart and body. Aerobic exercise burns fat, speeds up your metabolism, strengthens the heart and is a good stress-buster. But maybe you’re tired of the crowd at the gym, or perhaps you simply don’t want to pay for the expensive membership anymore. Well, there’s good news! Some of the best heart healthy activities don’t require a gym membership at all! Everyday activities such as walking and climbing stairs are equally as effective in lowering body fat and boosting long-term cardiovascular health. Walking is one of the easiest exercises to work into your day – it requires no special equipment, beyond good walking shoes!
If you have been ignoring fitness, and you’re just starting up a new routine, you may feel a need to go to bed an hour or two earlier. Be patient. With regular exercise it may take one to two months before you notice increased stamina, but it CAN become part of your regular routine.
Along with regular exercise, a heart healthy diet is essential, and may even help to lower those stubborn cholesterol levels. Consider the following tips:
- Avoid inflammatory foods that contain refined and added sugars such as cookies, pastries, cakes etc.
- Refined carbohydrates (white breads, pasta etc.) should be limited and replaced with whole grains.
- Limit high sodium foods
- Limit dairy products since they are full of saturated fats. If you can’t limit dairy, try to go for 1% milk or fat free products instead.
- Processed and smoked meats as well as fried foods should be avoided
- It’s important to avoid processed fats, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t consume healthy fats. Olive oil is one of keys to the success of the Mediterranean Diet and (in moderation) has proven to be effective in lowering cholesterol.
- Eat lean cuts of meat, or try to eat vegetarian every once in a while. Heard of “Meat Free Mondays”?
- Nutritional supplements such as garlic, L-carnitine, pantethine, fish oil, red yeast rice, and beta sitosterol may also help to support heart health*
By limiting your saturated fat intake, eating lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains, exercising, lowering your stress, and using nutritional supplements where necessary, you’ll be starting off the New Year right. Your heart will thank you later.
*If you are pregnant, nursing, taking any medications or have any medical condition, please consult your healthcare practitioner before taking any nutritional supplements.
(1) Appendix 4. USDA Food Patterns: Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern. Retrieved January 6th, 2017 from https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-4/.
(2) Wartian Smith, P. 2008. What you must know about vitamins, minerals, herbs & more. Square One Publishers, Garden City Park, NY. 281-283.
If you’re wondering which nutritional supplements are right for you, take the quiz to find your custom vitamin blend.