5 Smart Tips for Better Heart Health

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Since February is Heart Month, it's an especially perfect time to take control of your heart health with a few action items designed to promote and protect your healthy heart.

Not sure where to get started? No worries, because we've got you covered with these five tips for better heart health:

One: Stop smoking. That means kicking any tobacco habit, including chewing. Get with your physician for advice and access to smoking cessation resources, if necessary. Once you've got a game plan, pick a day in the not-too-distant future and quit.

Ask your family and friends to cheer you on and keep you accountable, but politely discourage them from offering well-meaning lectures. And most importantly, remember that it's about progress, not perfection. If you fall off the wagon, fight the urge to throw in the towel or beat yourself up. Instead, tell yourself that tomorrow's a new day-and climb back up on the wagon and keep going.

Two: Become a champion sleeper. Poor sleep habits don't just make you look tired and feel less than your best, they also contribute to heart disease and a range of other health problems. If you're chronically tired or irritable, having trouble focusing, waking with headaches or yawning frequently, it's time to make some changes.

Invest in some good-quality bed linens, stick with a regular bedtime that allows for adequate rest, limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol, throw the electronic devices out of your bedroom, and get with your doctor to resolve issues like snoring or insomnia.

Three: Move around while you work. Did you know that even if you're hitting the gym every day, you're still at risk for heart disease if you spend too much time sitting while you work? It's true-but before you despair, think about some of the ways you might work in some activity to your office routine.

You can schedule regular breaks where you get up to stretch or stroll, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park as far away as you can in the parking lot, or switch your evening workout to lunchtime. Here's another great idea: Get rid of your traditional sit-down desk in favor of a stand-up model that keeps you off your backside all day long.

Four: Swap out three less-than-healthy eating habits for three better ones. Even small changes in your diet can add up to big gains in the long run. Got a burger-and-fry addiction going on for lunch? Switch to turkey sandwiches and baked chips. Drinking lots of soda? Reach for a glass of water instead. Late night ice-cream eater? Cut your portion size in half and add some fresh fruit toppings. Get more heart healthy recipes.

Five: Take a walk three times a week. You don't have to invest in a gym membership or buy a lot of workout gear to turn up the volume on your activity level. Just slip on some comfortable walking shoes and head outside - or to a park, a mall, a grocery store, or a recreation center. No matter how crowded your schedule is, anyone can make the time for a brisk 20-minute walk, three times a week. Once you get in the habit, and once you start noticing the benefits of increased energy or weight loss, you'll likely start walking longer and more frequently. Before you know it, you'll be in the groove of a regular daily exercise routine.

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