Six heart-healthy life changes

New Years Day 2011 is fast becoming yet another memory, and for some of us, so are our well-intentioned resolutions to live a healthier life.

The reality is, it is never too late to make better choices for your our health. Even modest improvements make a big difference. Healthier lives are the key to healthier hearts. Resolve to make life changes instead.

Life Change No. 1

One of the most important things you can do for your heart health is establish a relationship with a general healthcare provider.

In collaboration with him/her, you can discuss your heart disease risk factors, monitor important numbers like blood pressure, glucose, weight, and cholesterol.

This information will help you create an action plan to maintain and promote good heart health.

Don’t forget to schedule regular dental check-ups as well. Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly can prevent germs in your mouth from making their way your heart.

If your doctor feels you might have a significant heart or related condition, seek the advice of a cardiologist.

Life Change No. 2

Eating well does not mean giving up taste. Include heart healthy food choices in every meal, even when dining out.

These include fruits/veggies, fibre-rich whole grains, lean meat/fish/skinless chicken, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.

Choose foods prepared by broiling, steaming, grilling, poaching or baking.

Look for foods low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars.

Visit Cayman’s local farmers market for seasonal fresh produce.

Life Change No. 3

Regular physical activity is a powerful tool to reduce your risk of heart disease.

With your doctor’s OK, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five times per week.

Find a partner, have fun and stay motivated by discovering various activities like walking (especially on our lovely beaches), biking, swimming, and jogging.

Life Change No. 4

Quitting smoking immediately reduces your risk of heart disease.

There is nothing easy about quitting, but with a plan of action and support, you can do it. Discuss a smoking cessation plan with your doctor.

It’s important to eliminate your exposure to secondhand smoke as well.

Life Change No. 5

Stress that is not managed has been linked to heart disease. Identify causes of stress in your life and learn techniques to help you cope.

Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself.

Allow yourself time to relax each day. Relaxation is uniquely individual. Try yoga and deep breathing, take a beach walk, watch a sunset, or soak in a hot bath.

Discover what works best for you.

Life Change No. 6

Limit your intake of alcohol. If you do consume alcohol, do so in moderation. For women, moderate drinking is considered as no more than one drink per day and for men, no more than two drinks per day.

One drink is defined as 12oz of beer, 5oz of wine, or 1oz of liquor.

Start now with small steps and keep it simple. Make one change today and tomorrow you’ll be ready for another.

Numbers you should know

Cholesterol profile (total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides)

Blood pressure

Fasting glucose

Body mass index

Waist circumference

A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted for all health queries and decision making.

Jodie Kelley, RN, is an education and programme coordinator based in the Cayman Islands.