• Make Your New Year’s Resolution Heart-Healthy

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    Don’t forget your heart health when you are making New Year’s resolutions. Heart attack is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States, so making a resolution to take care of your heart can be one of the most important things you do to have the highest possible quality of life into the coming year.

    For starters, consider the benefits to your heart when you resolve to make changes to your diet or to exercise more. Even modest weight loss (if you are overweight or obese) can reduce your risk of heart disease or slow the progress of existing disease. If you smoke, think about the benefits to your heart when you make that resolution to quit. Tobacco use damages your arteries and can contribute to heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular events. Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your heart health.

    A resolution you may be less likely to consider is to make a doctor’s appointment for yourself or for a loved one. When was the last time you discussed your heart health with your doctor? And do you know a loved one who would be more likely to go to the doctor if you scheduled the appointment or drove him or her to the doctor’s office?

    What’s the Secret to Keeping a New Year’s Resolution?

    Many people begin the New Year with a resolution to improve their diet or exercise more. Or sometimes people set resolutions around other aspects of life that are important to them. Whatever the New Year’s resolution, the secret to keeping it is to make sure your goal is realistic and well planned. One way you can do this is by following the SMART model, which stands for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-oriented.

    Specific. What do you plan to do? For example, perhaps your New Year’s resolution is to walk more to improve your heart health. But be even more specific so the plan is clear. For example, you plan to walk 20 minutes at lunchtime Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

    Measureable. You need to be able to measure your goals to see your progress. If you can mark it on your calendar or a chart, you can measure it at the end of the week to see how successful you were.

    Attainable. Don’t make your resolution a goal that is too hard to reach. Make your goal a series of small steps so that the end goal is easier to achieve.

    Realistic. Only set goals you know you will be able to achieve. Instead of beginning as a new runner (or someone who is recovering from a medical event) with a resolution of running a marathon, you may want to start with one mile and set incremental goals from there.

    Time-oriented. Pick a time frame for completing your goal. It helps to have an end in sight, and preferable a relatively short one. If your New Year’s resolution is a long-term goal, are there interim goals you can establish to give you successes along the way?

    It can be tough to keep a New Year’s resolution, but you should not be too hard on yourself if you don’t entirely succeed. In some cases, having tried truly is better than not having tried at all. You may not run a marathon that year, but if you have gone from sedentary to being able to run three miles, is that really a failure? Aim for achieving your resolution, and congratulate yourself for any successes you achieve along the way. Happy New Year!