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8 Weeks to a Healthier Heart

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  • 8 Weeks to a Healthier Heart

    Here is a week-by-week plan that outlines simple changes to make for the sake of your heart. Stick with them and you'll find yourself feeling stronger, lookin gbetter and managing stress more effectively.

    WEEK 1: EXERCISE: Make an appointment with your doctor if you haven't had a physical exam in the last couple of years, especially uf you've experienced chest pain or become faint or short of breath with exertion.

    FOOD: Keep a food diary and list everything you eat each day. Eliminate one high-calorie food and repolace it with a fruit, vegetable, or whole-grain food.

    STRESS: What stresses you most? Make a list, then think og possible solutions and write them down. The nect time you're in a stressful situation, put one or your solutions to use.

    WEEK 2: EXERCISE: Gear up. If you don't have proper walking shoes, invest in a pair. Get corkout clothing made from comfortable, water-reststant, breatheable fabrics that you can layer. If you plan to walk after dark, wear clothing with reflecctive trim and carry a flashlight.

    FOOD: Rid your kitchen of cookies, potato chips, and similar snacks (put them out of your reach). Make healthy snacks of individual servings of no-sugar added fruit sald or pplesauce front and center.

    STSRESS: Talk about the stress you're experinecing with a friend or relative you can confide in. This kind of social support buffers stress.

    WEEK 3: EXERCISE: Build activity into your day. At the very least, stash the remote (TV) so you have to get up to change channels. If you can, take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk the dog for 10 minutes longer thean usual (you'll both benefit).

    FOOD: Make breakfast a daily habit---somthing simple (if you're like me---I NEVER eat breakfast)---a cup of yogurt and a slice of whole-grain toast will do

    STRESS: Alleviate minor irritations that leave you feeling out of sorts---try changing your routine slightly. Take a short walk/shop for food at a different time than usual. This way, you look at life from a different angle.

    WEEK 4: EXERCISE: Set personal goals: short--term and long-term. Write tehm down

    FOOD: Cut back on salt. Choose reduced-sodium or no-salt added prepared foods, or foods without any added salt.

    STRESS: Learn anger management. If a situation angers you, think , "Can I change this? Is it worth getting mad?" If the answer is no, calm down.

    WEEK 5: EXERCISE: Keep a weekly journal of the activities yu do, how long you spend doing them and any other pertinent info, such as miles logged, calories burned, etc. Write it down and at the end of the day, you have a record of your progress.

    FOOD: Eat less meat. A serving the size of a deck of cards provides half the protein you need each day.

    STRESS: Find something to laugh about each day. Your heart will thank you.

    WEEK 6: EXERCISE: Ask a friend to be your workout partner. Choose someone who's at your level of fitness so you can encourage each other.

    FOOD: Substitute olive oil for butter or margarine when you cook. Olive oil won't raise levels of cholesterol. But con't overdo it: All fats contiain about 100 calories per tablespoon.

    STRESS: Pet owners have lower blood pressure and lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Consider adding a furry or feather friend to your household.

    WEEK 7: EXERCISE: Now it's time to look into broadening your exercise horizon. Check out adult-education programs or your local Y to see about tango or line-dancing classes
    , or find out if the high school opens its pool for adults-only sessions.

    FOOD: Read labels on prepared foods to learn the nutritional value and number of servings. Ingredients are listed in descending order of weight.

    STRESS: Relax a few minurtes if you feel the pressure of unrelenting stress. Phone a friend, stsretch, or have a cup of tea. Consider these mopments a necessary part of your life.

    WEEK 8: EXERCISE: Reward ylourself!! If you've come this far and stayed with your program, being active has probably become part of your life. Splurge on anew blouse or a manicure.

    FOOD: Each day, serve a fruit or vegetable that's new to you. Note the ones you like and make them a regular part of your meals.

    STRESS: Talk with your doctor if you can't find the light at the end of the stress tunnel after these eight weeks.