Happy New Year, Wyomingites! I know- I’m a little bit late- we’re already halfway through the first month of 2019! I hope this new chapter is treating you well so far.
These days, New Year’s Resolutions can seem so trite, cliché, and unrealistic. However, I don’t think they have to be. You absolutely are in control of your own life, and of making healthy decisions that will benefit you in the future. They don’t have to be monumental and life changing- adding some simple little goals to your everyday routine can be the best and most realistic way to ignite change. Even if you consider yourself to be a fairly healthy person, stop and think about if you truly prioritize each of these behaviors on a daily basis. I get it! – They’re small and simple, but so, so important for your heart.
So join me! Kick-start 2019 by nurturing and focusing on these 5 easy habits to get you on track to developing a healthier heart this year:
1. Flossing/Dental Health. Oral hygiene is directly linked to your heart health, and your teeth are great indicators of your overall health. When bacteria in your mouth accumulates, it can lead to gum disease, which releases proteins that signal your blood vessels to inflame. As a result, your risk for heart disease and stroke may increase. One of my big goals is making sure that flossing actually becomes a consistent part of my routine. Plus, there’s never a downside to polishing those pearly whites, so dig out a tooth brush and some floss and start off the new year with a dazzling smile!
2. Prioritize sleep. Rest, relaxation, and recovery. I think we often forget how important those are to having a healthy heart too! It’s easy to get caught up in work commitments and busy schedules, but lack of sleep significantly increases your risk for cardiovascular disease. This is something I’m definitely guilty of. In 2019, one of my main goals is to allow time for myself so that my body can recover, and that includes making sure I get 7-8 hours of sleep consistently- no matter how many obligations I may have on my mind. We need sleep to concentrate and to allow better cognitive function and focus, and it allows our hearts and other organs to take a break. This will balance your biological processes and help lower blood pressure and other negative health side effects. So there you have it- sleeping in once in a while doesn’t make you lazy- it makes you healthy!
3. Take opportunities to try new activities. Have you ever heard the saying, “Nothing good ever comes from comfort zones”? This year, I want to escape my comfort zone when it comes to fitness. Workouts and fitness plans can become so routine and boring after a while, especially if you’re working for a short term goal. Shift your focus to the long term, and work new muscle groups! Try a new fitness class you’ve never been to before. Take a friend along if that will make you feel more comfortable. Chances are that your gym (or a gym in your area) will offer you a free trial for the first class or two- so take advantage of those opportunities and go for it! For example, last fall my roommates and I tried a Boga-Fit class at the gym on the University of Wyoming campus. It was so much fun, and I want to do more of that in 2019! The most important thing is that you’re trying something. It all counts, and you may just find a new favorite!
4. De-stress by giving yourself time for other activities. When you’re developing heart healthy habits, there’s so much emphasis placed upon physical activity. Like my last resolution mentioned, that is essential- and you should be trying to switch up your fitness routine in order to keep it exciting and work new muscle groups! However, it’s crucial that you also do things that quite simply only make your heart happy too. It doesn’t have to be all about activity! No matter what your hobbies are, make sure you create time in your schedule for them each week. This will help reset your mind and body, and you can focus on some of your personal goals. From woodworking to reading and writing to painting, etc., these creative outlets will reduce stress in your life. Happiness helps your heart! Some of my favorite activities that I’m going to focus on this year in order to reduce stress and anxiety are reading, taking a drive, and cuddling my puppy! Driving always helps clear my head, my puppy is adorable and deserves endless cuddles, and I’m aiming to read at least one book (not school-related) each month. If you have any recommendations, let me know! I hope you can find your happy place in 2019.
5. Stretch every morning- Even if you’re not a morning person, I don’t think there’s any better way than to clear and reset your mind for the day ahead than to wake up your sleepy muscles with a little stretching. Get your blood flowing! It doesn’t have to be strenuous or long, just spend five minutes with yourself once you roll out of bed in the morning and work on improving your fitness goals through balance, strength, and flexibility. You might even decide to add some real yoga or meditation into the mix to combat cardiovascular disease! With a morning kick-start on physical activity, you’re already making heart healthy progress and launching yourself toward success, and you’re even more likely to actually commit to a workout and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise that day. Good morning sunshine, RISE & stretch it out!
Okay- maybe I have six (oops!). My last goal for 2019 is one that I’m sure I won’t have to work too hard at, but I want to be more conscious of it. Smile & laugh more. Did you know that laughter can be good for your heart? Smiling and showing joy and gratitude are important aspects of mental health, and a balanced mind can lead to a healthy, balanced body! Furthermore, laughter is linked with cardiovascular health because it expands blood vessels and increases blood flow, as well as releasing hormones that can brighten your mood. Not surprisingly, stress has the exact opposite effect- further emphasizing why we want to reduce that this year!
Even better, if you’re leaping into the new year by tackling these suggested resolutions, don’t forget to get involved with the lifesaving advocacy work of the American Heart Association today! Add your voice by simply texting HEART to 46839 right now, or visit yourethecure.org/join. It only takes a few minutes, and you will be part of a powerful movement to make a difference and save lives.
Let’s continue some heart healthy habits and make the best of 2019, Wyomingites!
Forever your Miss Wyoming 2017 and AHA Advocate,