You know that “eating right” and “exercising” are the key to a long life, but these vague notions give you little clue as to what is actually required to ensure heart health. It can be further narrowed down to a “mostly vegetarian” diet and “thirty minutes of cardio 3-4 times a week”, but this still leaves such a wide range of possibilities that you are scratching your head in consternation. Does the Bugs Bunny routine fit the bill (walking along munching a mouthful of carrots)? Or are you required to subsist on lentil soup and salads while taking multiple spinning classes every week?
1. Become a flexitarian. This modified diet requires you to eat mostly vegetarian. This means something different for everyone, but you will basically cut way back on your consumption of meats (you really don’t need more than two servings of red meat per week anyway, and supplementing with leaner options like fish and chicken is a great idea). You will eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, and grains.
2. Go organic. If you didn’t know, organic foods are grown without pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, or harmful fertilizers. Organic meats are given neither hormones nor antibiotics (and they are fed organic grains). This means that no chemicals will enter your body through your food. As part of this regimen, you may also want to exclude processed foods if possible.
3. Party like you’re Mediterranean. The Mediterranean diet, which is high in healthy items like fish, tomatoes, and olive oil, has been proven to be extremely heart healthy (those who embrace it have a much lower incidence of heart disease). So bust out the paella and party for your heart!
4. Join a group. If motivation is your problem when it comes to eating healthy, join a group like Weight Watchers or Spark People (an online community) that will allow you to track your habits, offer helpful hints on eating healthy, and connect you with others on the same journey.
5. Start slow. Changing your habits is hard, and it doesn’t happen overnight. If you push yourself too hard, too fast, you’re just going to end up frustrated or in pain. So while a gung-ho attitude is certainly helpful, showing a little restraint at the outset could be a good idea. You know the old adage: slow and steady wins the race.
6. Know your vitals. Exercise is something that is different for every person, and you may have to try (and fail at) a lot of different routines before you settle on one you like. You should also be aware that just because you can’t go all-out like people who have been doing it for awhile doesn’t mean you aren’t getting the same benefits. It pays to be aware of your range (in terms of heart rate) for weight loss and cardio benefits. It will vary from person to person (it is generally based on age), so don’t think you have to run like the marathon-winner down the street. Go at your own pace and you will see steady improvement in both heart rate (less effort will yield better results) and recovery time.