Now that the peak of New Year's resolution season has come and gone, many of us have abandoned our grand visions for 2020. Big-picture goals, which are often vague and too ambitious, sometimes fall by the wayside as life inevitably gets in the way.
But that's no reason to give up on better health this year. In fact, February – also known as Heart Month – is the perfect time to focus on improving your heart health. The key is structuring that goal in a way that keeps you motivated throughout the year.
Now, we know what you're thinking: So, you just want me to lose weight, eat right, exercise regularly, quit smoking and keep my blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar down? Fat chance!
But the truth is, each objective really is attainable through manageable behavioral changes. The first step is to find out where you stand. Go to the AHA's website and complete the simple assessment to find out what areas you already excel in, where you need to make improvements and what information you may want to ask your doctor about. For example, if you don't smoke, you've already achieved one of your seven big-picture goals. Don't know your blood sugar levels? That's something you should probably discuss with your doctor. In addition, the assessment will reveal areas where you can improve your diet, how much exercise you need to add to your day and where you stand in terms of body weight and other variables.
Now that you know your long-term goals, it's time to incorporate behaviour changes throughout your day and week to help you progress. Need to get moving? Consider joining us for a gym membership and/or trying some of our fitness classes. Or start with a commitment to walking a 2 km loop in your neighbourhood several days a week. Short on fruits and veggies? Start by adding one piece of fruit to your breakfast each day and eat a salad as part of your dinner three days each week. You can also boost your vegetable content with VegeGreens super food powder, which is availble at the club. Is your blood pressure too high? Talk to your doctor about ways to control it - there are many natural ways to do this. As those new behaviours become habits, you can modify them as needed.
Eventually, small behaviour tweaks will become big changes. They'll also provide frequent successes that keep you motivated throughout the year. Every time you join a fitness class or walk that 2 km loop, for instance, you've achieved another goal!
Remember, lifestyle change is not an all-or-nothing proposition. It may be quite some time before you meet every aspect of the dietary recommendations, or achieve every one of the 7 steps – if ever. But every improvement counts, as does every pound lost. For instance, losing 50 pounds to get back down to your college weight may not be achievable right now, but losing 10 percent of your body weight could lead to dramatic improvements in your health. Likewise, you may not be able to exercise every day, but every moment of physical activity counts. The successes will accumulate and become their own type of habit. It's all about perspective and acknowledging your achievements along the way. You CAN do it!
I'm Natatia Gemmell.