If you want to lose weight, exercise more, stress-out less, and live an all-around heart-healthier lifestyle, we have some suggestions you can use throughout the day.
Wake up and walk.
Set your alarm to go off 10 minutes early. Throw on some sweats and enjoy a brisk 10-minute walk before breakfast.
Sit down to breakfast.
Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast are less likely to struggle with obesity than those who skip or skimp. If you’re overweight, just a 10% weight loss can prompt improvements in cholesterol levels and blood pressure, says Sarah Mohrman, RD, a cardiology dietitian with Fort Wayne Cardiology. She suggests these heart-smart choices:
- Oatmeal. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of ground flaxseed, 1 cup blueberries, and 2 to 4 oz of pomegranate juice
- Cereal made with whole grain. Have a bowl of cereal such as Cheerios, with skim milk or low-fat soymilk, such as 8th Continent Soymilk, plus 1 cup of sliced strawberries.
- Fruit parfait. Mix fresh berries into 6 to 8 oz of fat-free vanilla or plain yogurt. Sprinkle with slivered almonds and ground flaxseed.
Steal some exercise.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator for errands or coffee refills. Stand up and stretch every half hour or so. Keep a pair of walking shoes at the office so you can take walks with colleagues while brainstorming ideas.
These “stolen” moments of exercise add up. “Walking regularly can help reduce risk of heart attack,” says Margo B. Minissian, ACNP, a cardiology nurse practitioner at Cedars-Sinai Women’s Heart Center, in Los Angeles.
Stock up on alternatives to the vending machine. Keep apples, bananas, raisins, and other portable fruit snacks in your purse or briefcase, says Mohrman. Or pack some homemade trail mix made with whole grain cereal, dried fruits, and nuts.
Love that lunch.
Whether you are brown bagging or ordering from a menu, a good lunch should energize you, not make you drowsy within the hour. Here are some choices that won’t drag you down:
- Veggie wrap. Spread 1 Tbsp of light or fat-free garden vegetable cream cheese onto a tortilla made with whole grain. Add romaine lettuce and sliced tomato, avocado, shredded carrots, and other vegetables. Roll and enjoy with a medium apple.
- Turkey sandwich. Spread 1 tsp of fat-free mayo onto bread made with whole grain, add turkey, lettuce, sliced onion, and tomato. On the side, enjoy 1 cup of pineapple chunks.
Schedule a screening.
Make an appointment with your doctor for a cardiovascular risk assessment, which uses a formula to identify people at risk of heart disease though they have no symptoms, says Minissian.
Remember to take small breaks to stretch and move around. Walk the longest route to the water cooler and take the stairs.
Spread some natural peanut butter onto crackers made with whole grain or have 6 oz of low-fat yogurt topped with 1 Tbsp of ground flaxseed.
Dine with your heart in mind.
Keep a cookbook of Mediterranean meals in the kitchen. They’re easy to prepare and easy on the heart. Try:
- Grilled salmon. Prepare a 4 oz serving, with whole grain rice or couscous and 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli. Serve with 1 cup of berries.
- Pasta primavera. Serve over whole wheat pasta. Toss lightly in olive oil and mix with sautéed garlic, broccoli, peas, cauliflower, and asparagus. Enjoy a wedge of cantaloupe on the side.
More chances for movement.
Time is tight but you can make time for exercise. Get the family to help clean the kitchen so you can go to your Pilates or yoga class. Take an evening walk with your family. Pedal on your stationary bike or rev up the treadmill while watching TV. Turn up the tunes and dance as you fold laundry.
Relax and rest.
Stress and anxiety make the heart work harder, says Minissian. A stressed-out mind also doesn’t sleep as well. To calm down before bedtime, take a warm bath, then try some tactics that slow the mind and body, such as meditation, gentle stretching, reading, or journal writing.