As the holiday season has come and gone, many often wonder how to get back on track. ”How do I get rid of the few pounds I put on over the holidays?” It is a question asked seemingly every year in the throes of winter.
While weight loss can be very important for health, most are often guilty of asking too much too quickly from themselves. Focusing on one area, such as heart health, can lead to overall weight loss and better physical condition. As a physician who hears these concerns from family, friends, and patients regularly, I would like to share with you a few tips that will make achieving your goal a bit easier.
- Move more! Modern lifestyle and the ongoing pandemic have made it increasingly difficult for us to lead an active lifestyle. If you have a desk job, I recommend taking a 5–10 minute walking break every hour you work. This will not only make you more productive but also help you get 30–60 minutes of walking in during the days.
- Eat healthier by saying no to sodas. With all the temptations and advertisements around, it is a wonder anyone can keep those pounds off. Start by cutting down on all sodas, which are the largest source of empty calories in an average diet.
- Aim for a healthy weight. This is usually a BMI between 18–25. The key to achieving this lies in the above two steps. Abdominal fat is a risk factor for heart disease, and the best way to stave that off is to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight and obese not only leads to heart disease but also other risk factors for heart disease such as diabetes and hypertension.
- Stop smoking and avoid second-hand smoking. This one is big! Numerous studies have shown that smoking leads to a multiple fold increase in heart disease, stroke, cancer, and many other chronic illnesses. Smoking can be very addictive, but according to research, the more times you try to quit, the higher your success rate will be. The adage “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again” truly applies in this case.
- Prevent or control your risk factors for heart disease. The two most common risk factors are diabetes and high blood pressure. If you have been diagnosed with either one, it is important that you follow up with your doctor closely to keep them under control. It can be difficult to tell when your disease is not under control as you may not feel poorly. It is important to follow up with your doctor who will help keep you on track so that you can continue to enjoy your life to the fullest.
- Worry less. This is advice that applies to all aspects of life but especially for prevention of heart disease. Stress increases inflammation in your body and it increases blood pressure. Sudden extreme stress can even lead to heart attacks! To de-stress, find time for things you enjoy during a busy schedule. Make time for yourself and consider meditation. I find it helpful to take five minutes even in my busiest days to close my eyes and center myself.
- Sleep in. According to research, those who sleep less than six hours have a higher risk of heart disease than those who don’t. Most people feel well rested and perform their best with 7–8 hours of sleep. Remember your body and especially your heart is working nonstop throughout the day. Sleep is when your body recharges itself for the next day. Do not neglect it.
It is easy to get wrapped up in work and other obligations once the holidays are over. We have many effective treatments for heart disease, but preventing it in the first place should be your priority. It’s cheaper and it’s the best treatment we have! If it is too difficult to follow all of the above tips, start with the ones that you know you can achieve and slowly add on the others as you see yourself progress. If you follow these tips consistently, you will be well on your way to a happier and healthier heart in 2021!
Dr. Ganguli is a third-gen physician who has grown up in Memphis and is excited to return home to serve his community. After completing medical school at UT Memphis, he did his residency and fellowships in the Midwest and the East Coast. He is passionate about valvular heart disease, coronary artery disease, and peripheral vascular disease. He completed a dedicated year of structural heart disease and endovascular fellowship, where he specialized in minimally invasive heart valve repair and replacement. He also specializes in percutaneous aortic aneurysm repair, among other advanced endovascular procedures. For more information call 901.271.1000 or visit Sterncardio.com