5 life hacks heart doctors use to stay healthy every day
Starting and sticking to a heart-healthy lifestyle – one that includes eating right, getting 150 minutes of exercise every week, and avoiding tobacco products – may be easier than you think. As long as you keep things simple and stay committed, your long-term goal of a healthier you is attainable.
“Leading a heart healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be painful, time-consuming, or expensive,” says Dr. Marlon Everett, a cardiologist at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “Anyone can start building a healthier lifestyle today, just by making small tweaks to their everyday routine.”
The key to lasting change is incorporating healthy habits into your normal, daily activities and repeat, repeat, repeat. “Eventually, and with practice, you will begin to make healthy choices automatically,” Dr. Everett says.
Here are five habits Dr. Everett follows every day to live a heart-healthy lifestyle with minimal effort:
- Shrink the size of your plate: Controlled portion sizes should be important to everyone concerned about heart health. A quick and easy shortcut to achieving this is to eat from an eight-inch plate rather than a standard dinner plate, which today averages 12 inches in diameter. Choosing a smaller salad plate will automatically limit the amount of food you eat. And studies show that you are more likely to feel satisfied eating less food when it’s served on a smaller plate.
- Snack with color: Eating the American Heart Association’s recommended eight servings of fresh fruits and veggies every day is easier when you allow yourself to snack away cravings. When you feel the urge to snack on something sweet or crunchy, reach for brightly colored fresh fruits and veggies. Not only will you quiet those mid-morning and mid-afternoon hunger pangs, you’ll also boost your fresh produce intake. Many grocery and convenience stores offer fresh fruit cups and vegetables with dip in single serving packages, which can help you snack on the run.
- Step it up naturally: It’s easy to increase your step count without spending hours in the gym. Simply move more as you go about your daily routine. Instead of parking in the space closest to the door, leave your car in a safe space in a far corner of the parking lot, then walk to your destination. Walk one lap around the grocery store before you start shopping. If you take public transportation, try getting off the bus one stop early.
- Schedule beauty rest: Sleep is important to everyone’s health. It’s when the body repairs itself, and the quality of sleep often affects your energy levels throughout the day, as well as your ability to control your weight. To ensure you get enough sleep, schedule your bedtime and stick to it. Be sure to include at least a half hour to wind down and relax without electronic devices before turning off the lights and going to sleep.
- Enjoy family and friends: Studies show that people with good quality interpersonal relationships tend to live longer and have a better quality of life. In other words, making time every day to connect with family members and friends — the people who make life worth living – can be good for your health. A good way to stay in touch is to use a hands-free device with your cell phone to chat with loved ones during your morning and afternoon commute.
If you practice these simple life hacks every day, your lifestyle will become heart healthy without a lot of extra effort.
About the Author
Cassie Richardson, health enews contributor, is regional coordinator on Advocate Aurora Health's Public Affairs team. She has more than 10 years of experience in health care communications, marketing, media and public relations. Cassie is a fan of musical theater and movies. When she’s not spreading the word about health and wellness advancements, she enjoys writing fiction.