Heart and Brain Health: Do One New Thing for Three Weeks

By Keri Pollock

A new year is upon us and with it usually comes a resolution to get healthier. We so earnestly want to engage in life improvements, yet, they have a way of falling to the wayside. Take heart! (Pun intended). You can start fresh any time of year. Not convinced? Here are some sobering facts to consider from the American Heart Association:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the U.S.
  • 1 in 4 deaths is caused by heart disease
  • 30% of the deaths among women in the U.S are caused by heart attacks and strokes
  • High cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and smoking all contribute to heart disease

Let’s look at how you can make simple, effective changes that will benefit your heart and overall health. Choose just one, and you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel. Start with a visit to your health care professional before embarking on any significant changes in physical activity:

Get a baseline of your five most important health numbers: Total Cholesterol, HDL Cholesterol, Blood Sugar, Blood Pressure and BMI (Body Mass Index). When you know these numbers, you can find out if you are at risk for developing heart disease or other health conditions.

Watch your weight. Extra pounds put stress on our bodies and hearts. Obesity is responsible for many health conditions that can be reversed or improved through weight loss.

Do you smoke? Quit! Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. Check out these resources at smokefree.gov website for support.

Manage blood pressure and cholesterol. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for heart disease and other harmful conditions, such as stroke.

If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol can raise the levels of some fats in the blood (triglycerides). It can also lead to high blood pressure, heart failure and an increased calorie intake.

Engage in physical activity. Move more. Walk 20 minutes each day. Take the stairs. Find a class – water aerobics, dance, tai chi, gentle yoga — at your community center. It all counts!

Eat healthy. Eat smart. Add color. Reduce added sugar. Add more fresh vegetables and fruits to your diet. Choose lean meats and healthy fats. Eat more fish. Take a cooking class. Work with a nutritionist. The Mediterranean diet is often cited as one of the healthiest and good for your heart.

Get enough sleep. Seven to eight hours each night is what’s recommended. Sleep is restorative. Our quality of sleep influences everything from mood, to thinking, to reaction times, even our weight.

Prevention is key. Often, heart disease can be prevented when you make healthy choices and manage health conditions. Controlling and preventing risk factors is also important for people who already have heart disease. You don’t have to change everything at once. In fact, if you try to make too many changes, you are more likely to fail.

Need a little extra incentive? Consider this: What’s good for the heart is good for the brain!

Pick just one thing – exercise, diet, losing weight, managing BP and cholesterol, quitting smoking, or getting enough sleep – and try it for 21 days (the length of time it takes to develop a new habit). Then, add another heart healthy choice. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to improved well-being, a happier heart, and a healthier lifestyle that you can maintain.

Keri Pollock is an ALCA Administrative Partner directs marketing and communications for Aging Wisdom, an Aging Life Care™ practice based in Seattle, WA. Pollock serves on the Age Friendly Seattle Task Force, the Creative Aging Programs Advisory Committee at the Frye Art Museum, and on the Alzheimer’s Association Discovery Conference planning committee.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.