NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Americans are only one week into the new year, and it's not too late to get started on New Year's Resolutions.
Furthermore, why not make the New Year's Resolutions permanent resolutions? No matter what day it is, it's never too late to start a healthy routine.
The American Heart Association (AHA) has seven easy steps everyone can do to live a long, productive healthy life.
1. Get active
The AHA suggests at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise, or a combination of moderate and vigorous. Physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burns calories, such as climbing stairs or playing sports. Aerobic exercises benefit your heart, such as walking, jogging, swimming or biking. Strength and stretching exercises are best for overall stamina and flexibility.
2. Eat better
You may be eating plenty of food, but your body may not be getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Nutrient-rich foods have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients, but are lower in calories. To get the nutrients you need, choose foods like vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products and fat-free or low-fat dairy products most often. The AHA recommends that you eat a wide variety of nutritious foods daily from each of the basic food groups.
3. Lose weight
Among Americans age 20 and older, 145 million are overweight or obese. That's 76.9 million men and 68.1 million women. If you're overweight or obese, you can reduce your risk for heart disease by successfully losing weight and keeping it off. When coming up with a fitness and nutrition plan to lose weight, it's crucial to understand your recommended calorie intake. And then the amount of food calories you're consuming verses the energy calories you're burning off with different levels of physical activity. It's a matter of balancing healthy eating with the energy that leaves your body through a healthy level of exercise.
4. Stop smoking
Smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the U.S. Smokers have a higher risk of developing many chronic disorders, including atherosclerosis—the buildup of fatty substances in the arteries—which can lead to coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Controlling or reversing atherosclerosis is an important part of preventing future heart attack or stroke. If you're smoking—quit.
5. Control cholesterol
Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like, waxy substance found in the bloodstream and in all your body's cells. It's normal to have cholesterol. Cholesterol is an important part of a healthy body because it's used for producing cell membranes and some hormones, and serves other needed bodily functions. But too much cholesterol in the blood is a major risk for coronary heart disease (which leads to heart attack) and for stroke. To keep your cholesterol under control the AHA recommends that you: schedule a screening, eat foods low in cholesterol and saturated fat and free of trans fat, maintain a healthy weight, and stay physically active.
6. Reduce blood sugar
The AHA considers diabetes one of the six major controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In fact, adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes. When diabetes is detected, a doctor may prescribe changes in eating habits, weight control, exercise programs and medication to keep it in check. It's critical for people with diabetes to have regular check-ups. Work closely with your healthcare provider to manage your diabetes and control any other risk factors.
7. Manage blood pressure
Hypertension is the single most significant risk factor for heart disease. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can injure or kill you. It's sometimes called "the silent killer" because it has no symptoms. While there is no cure, high blood pressure is manageable. Even if your blood pressure is normal and your goal is prevention only, the lifestyle modifications provide a prescription for healthy living. These changes may reduce your blood pressure without the use of prescription medications: eating a heart-healthy diet, which may include reducing salt; enjoying regular physical activity; maintaining a healthy weight; managing stress; limiting alcohol; avoiding tobacco smoke.
Americans can stop heart disease before it even starts. Start small and keep it simple. Make one change today and then you're ready to make another.
For more information, visit the AHA's 7-step program website here.
You can also start living a healthier life by joining the AHA at the Start! Wall Street Run & Heart Walk this spring. It's a three mile run/walk held on the streets of New York City's famed Financial District. The 3M run is a qualifier for the ING New York City Marathon in partnership with New York Road Runners. For more information or to register, visit the race website here.
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