UAB Medicine News
4 Quick and Easy Lifestyle Changes Can Improve Heart Health
Making sweeping lifestyle changes is hard, but making small changes can be quick and easy. Some of the most rewarding small changes you can make are those that have a positive impact on your cardiovascular health.
You can’t change your age, but you can change your “heart age”. Heart age is the age of your heart and blood vessels after adjusting for your risk factors for heart attack and stroke. Most adults in the United States have a heart age older than their actual age, placing them at greater risk of a cardiac event. The most common reasons for a higher heart age that can be changed or managed are:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity
By changing two or more of these risk factors, such as quitting smoking or starting a fitness routine, you can significantly lower your heart age.
Take a Stand
A desk job, no matter how busy, can reduce your daily physical activity. In fact, it can lead to inactivity, which takes an even larger toll on cardiovascular health. One easy and instant way to reverse that trend is to stand while working, all or part of the day.
Standing desks and similar office devices are more popular and affordable than ever before, so it’s easy to make your time in the workspace less sedentary. Shop online for a wide assortment of standing desks, desktop tables, adjustable workstations, and even portable platforms for laptops and mobile devices.
Smell What You’re Cooking
Nutrition experts know that the most successful way to maintain healthy eating habits is to cook most of your own meals. They also know that it’s hard to stay motivated to be your own chef, especially with family demands and a busy schedule.
However, some culinary experiments suggest that people are more willing prepare a meal if they begin one small task toward that goal, and even more so if they can smell a favorite food aroma during that first step. Once onions are chopped and placed in hot oil, or if you drop thyme and black pepper into chicken broth, your senses may jumpstart your enthusiasm for meal preparation. What looked like a chore now smells like dinner.
Get to Class
Regular physical activity can help you lose excess weight and improve physical fitness. But if you want to go slow in adopting a fitness routine, the good news is that even low-level activities are a healthy choice. The even better news is that there’s probably a class for that at a gym or community center near you. Consider these options:
- Yoga: physical postures, stretching, and breathing techniques that can improve flexibility, balance, strength, and relaxation. It can range from slow and gentle to athletic and vigorous.
- Pilates: a conditioning method used to build strength in the body’s “core” (torso), usually through a series of mat exercises. Pilates can tone muscles and increase flexibility.
- Tai chi: an ancient Chinese practice based on shifting body weight through a series of slow movements that flow into one graceful gesture. This calming exercise can improve flexibility, balance, and strength.
28 Days Later
Heart Month is the ideal time to place extra focus on cardiovascular health each day of February. Doing so is easy with the National Institutes of Health’s “28 Days Towards a Healthy Heart”, which is a handy calendar of simple and fun heart-healthy activities. Try a new activity each day and make your favorites part of your regular routine for the rest of the year. Download the printable PDF calendar here.
From high blood pressure to heart transplants, the nationally ranked UAB Cardiovascular Institute offers the full range of cardiovascular care. Learn more here.