15 Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Changes - dummies

15 Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Changes

By Sarah Samaan, Rosanne Rust, Cynthia Kleckner

Part of DASH Diet For Dummies Cheat Sheet

When you’re battling hypertension, the solution doesn’t involve just one factor, whether that’s reducing your salt intake or getting on the treadmill. Instead, controlling hypertension and improving your health involves creating a more balanced, healthier lifestyle overall. Check out this list of the top tips and tricks to make lifestyle changes that can help you work toward a healthier heart and life:

  • Drink more water every day and limit sugar-sweetened beverages. Start saving sodas and sugary coffee drinks for occasional treats once or twice a week.

  • Eat less dessert and fewer sweetened baked goods. When you do indulge, eat smaller portions.

  • Replace salt in recipes with flavorful herbs and spices, or use half the salt. Also, remove the salt shaker from the table.

  • Skip the salty snacks and extra sweets. Have a piece of fresh fruit first when cravings strike.

  • Keep cut carrots, mixed greens, and bell pepper strips on hand for a quick salad or snack to meet your daily vegetable intake.

  • Consider keeping a food journal or using an app to record your food intake and exercise, because writing down what you consume and do helps you stay on track.

  • Get more physically active and fit. Even if you only have 10 minutes to work out, use those 10 minutes, because every few minutes count. Fitting in simple things such as 2 minutes of jumping jacks or ten push-ups will keep you strong. Eventually, you can work your way up to at least 30 minutes of vigorous activity four to five times a week.

  • Consider wearing a pedometer, aiming for 10,000 (or more!) steps a day. To get there, use the stairs more often, get up and move around, and park your car farther away to encourage more daily steps — especially if your job is sedentary.

  • Make an exercise plan and stick to it, enlisting the companionship of a friend, exercise partner, or personal trainer, if you like. Try working out in the morning because studies show that morning workouts are more consistent and therefore offer more success. Think about it: In the morning, fewer obstacles can get in the way of your busy life.

  • Check with your doctor about any restrictions on exercise. Choose physical activities that you enjoy and don’t try to do too much too soon.

  • Have your doctor check your blood pressure regularly and let her know if you’re following the DASH diet.

  • Ask your doctor how your blood cholesterol is doing and whether that needs some work, too. Good news: DASH helps in that area as well.

  • If your doctor prescribes medications for you, take them exactly as directed.

  • Lose weight if you’re overweight. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian for more on what a healthy body weight for you should be.

  • Quit smoking — and if you’re not a smoker, don’t start!