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5 Heart Resolutions for 2012

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Heart Disease related image Photo: Getty Images

Now that the hustle and bustle of the holidays is finally over, many of us are already taking a look forward to our 2012 New Year’s resolutions. Since heart disease remains the number one killer of women in the United States, why not add getting heart healthy to your list of New Year’s resolutions this year?

Many of the risk factors for heart disease are preventable and what better time than the new year to make a plan to get heart healthy.

While improving your heart health might seem overwhelming, it can be easy with a little careful planning and strategy. First, begin by knowing your risk factors so you know where to concentrate your efforts.

Risk factors include items such as age, sex, family history, diabetes, smoking, poor diet, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, high cholesterol, and high stress levels. Since you can’t change your age, sex or family history, select resolutions that focus on the risk factors you can change.

Consider heart healthy resolutions such as the following:

1. Improve your diet. In general, you’ll want to ensure your diet includes foods such as fish for omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Foods which are high in salt, cholesterol, or fat should be limited.

If you’re unsure where to start, check out the American Heart Association guidelines at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/Diet-and-Lifestyle-Recommendations_UCM_305855_Article.jsp#.TwEf8NVEaSo.

2. Stop smoking. Smoking is bad for your heart health for a number of reasons. The nicotine in cigarettes causes blood vessels to constrict. In addition, the added carbon monoxide leads to damage of the inner lining of blood vessels.

As a result, smokers are more likely than non-smokers to suffer a heart attack. If you’re a smoker, the best way to remove this risk factor is to quit.

3. Fight Obesity. In addition to heart disease, obesity contributes to a number of other health conditions such as diabetes which also further contribute to heart disease. It’s generally accepted that a body mass index or BMI of more than 25 is considered obese.

If you don’t know your BMI levels, check out the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute’s BMI tables at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/diagnosis.html/

Once you know your BMI, it’s important to set realistic, achievable weight loss goals. Your health care professional can assist in creating a plan that’s right for you.

4. Physical inactivity. Let’s face it -- we are a couch potato society. We sit all day at work and then sit again at home. Adding a dose of physical activity to your daily routine can help you to control your diabetes level, control your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Unless there are other health conditions which prevent you from exercising regularly, it’s recommended that we need 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity daily. If you don’t have a 30 minute time block, then break up the exercise into 10 minute segments until the 30 minute goal is met. The important thing is to get moving!

5. High blood cholesterol levels. If you don’ already know your blood cholesterol level, get tested. Often, there are no symptoms of high cholesterol until the damage to your heart is already done.

Exercise, controlling your weight, and maintaining a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids are great ways to help keep blood cholesterol at a healthy level. In some cases, medications may be required to control cholesterol levels.

It’s important to keep in mind that you need to address each of your risk factors for heart disease. However, if the list seems a bit daunting, then choose one or two risk factors to address now and create a plan to add the others later in the year.

The most important thing is that your resolution be not only realistic, but achievable. Here’s to a healthy heart in 2012!


Heart Disease. The Mayo Clinic. 12 Jan 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease/DS01120

What are Overweight and Obesity? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. 01 Nov 2010.

What is Coronary Heart Disease? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. 01 May 2011.

Reviewed January 2, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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