Focus on your heart: Five New Year’s resolutions to live longer

Friday is National Wear Red Day

Jen Waugh shares the five simple lifestyle changes that will help make your heart stronger.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, killing one person every 34 seconds. However, there are simple lifestyle changes that can help you build a strong heart.

This new year, there are five easy ways to start better caring for your heart health. First, follow the 80/20 rule.

“Try to pick 80 percent of your foods to be whole foods,” says Holistic Cardiologist at Baptist Health, Mona Shah, MD.

Whole foods have not been processed, refined, or had ingredients added to them. This includes fruits, veggies, nuts, whole grains, meat, fish, and eggs. Another heart-healthy resolution to add is incorporating 30 minutes of exercise into your routine every day.

“Even if it means you’re walking 30 minutes a day, and it’s split into 10, 10, and 10,” said Shah.

One recent Harvard review found that walking two and a half hours a week cut the risk of heart disease by 30 percent. Also, resolve to get more sleep this new year. In one study, people sleeping less than six hours a night had a 20 percent higher risk of a heart attack.

Another resolution to consider is aiming to reduce stress levels. Meditation can help, and Doctor Mona Shah, MD, also recommends keeping a gratitude journal. Write down three things you’re grateful for each morning.

“It releases happy hormones. Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, all these things that help our arteries, help our blood pressure, help our heart rate, let us live longer,” said Shah.

The last resolution is to nix bad habits like smoking and drinking. If you do have a drink, limit your alcohol consumption to no more than six to eight ounces a day and cut out cigarettes altogether. Research shows smoking causes about one out of every four deaths from heart disease.

Another resolution you may want to consider is to sit less. One study showed that sitting for eight hours or more a day was linked to about a 20 percent higher risk of heart disease or dying from any cause compared to those who sat for only half that time. If you can, use a standing desk or take breaks from sitting throughout the day.