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Better Heart Health in Three Simple Steps

Posted by Zankhana Raval, MD on February 1, 2019

Zankhana Raval, MD - Cardiologist, Holy Name

I know what you think I’m going to say, “Eat right, exercise, quit smoking…” And yes, while these three life changes are crucial to better heart health, I realize putting them into action isn’t always easy. So instead, I want to give you three practical “heart hacks” that can help create a way of life that will make you happier, healthier, and even strengthen your heart.

Heart Hack #1: Living in the Moment

Yes, it's always a good idea to be conscious, aware, and in the present, putting aside the past and future. But when it comes to the health of your heart, living in the moment means making the right decision, for right now. So, for example:

  • Am I really feeling hungry for this food right now?
  • Does it taste good enough to justify its potential health and weight effects?
  • Instead of pressing the snooze button, can I get up right now and make a healthy breakfast or do a few minutes of exercise?

The goal is, over time, to incorporate these small acts daily, so that with practice, healthier choices will happen automatically. In any given moment, we usually have the energy and the fortitude to do the right thing.

Heart Hack #2: Making Healthier Choices

Again, the goal is to slowly change our preferences so that we actually feel happy and satisfied with good food and good habits. This also involves incorporating healthier choices into your diet and lifestyle. So, for example, you’re in the mood for a soda. Instead of opting for a can that contains as many as nine teaspoons of sugar, you choose a flavored seltzer, which has little to no sugar. It’s not to say that you can’t enjoy a soda every now and then, but start to think a little more about what you’re putting into your body on a regular basis. Learning how to make healthier food choices could be as simple as a tweak in how you make a meal, like baking versus frying.

Heart Hack #3: Acting and Reacting

ACTING: We know 30 minutes of daily, moderate physical activity can have a huge impact on heart health. But if even that seems overwhelming, you don’t have to act all at one time. Spread the 30 minutes out across the day by taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking to the bathroom that’s farthest from your desk. Throw in a little housework and/or gardening, and before you know it, you’ll have done at least 30 minutes of physical activity.

REACTING: Studies show excessive stress can contribute to heart disease. Car troubles, financial problems, family issues -- they’re not always easy to handle. But if you overreact, your body may release stress hormones that temporarily cause breathing and heart rate to speed up, and your blood pressure to rise. It’s known as the "fight or flight" response, and while it protected our ancestors from danger, it’s not necessary when we're sitting in traffic. So, it’s important not to let your reaction get the best of you. Instead: Laugh. Find some quiet time. Make your health and peacefulness a priority.

It goes without saying, annual check-ups are crucial to the health of your heart. When you visit a Holy Name Medical Partners practitioner like Dr. Raval, you have access to all the hospital's resources with seamless communication and collaboration. To make an appointment with Dr. Raval or another Holy Name Medical Partner, visit holyname.org/medicalpartners.