HUDSON VALLEY – Like many Americans, you made a pledge to get healthier this New Year. You bought new sneakers, and dusted off the treadmill you found under your laundry pile.
Your yoga pants are no longer just a fashion choice—they are ready to do actual yoga.
But come February, are you still on the plan?
This Valentine’s Day, the American Heart Association (AHA) wants you to avoid a broken heart by making simple lifestyle changes to help prevent heart disease and stroke, the number one and five killers of men and women.
More than one in three adults has some form of cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association, 80 percent of heart disease and stroke can be prevented. And prevention can be as simple as making the healthy choice most of the time.
The 2015 AHA BetterU Challenge winner, Elizabeth Donohue of Poughkeepsie, lost 31 lbs. in the program and continues her healthy regimen today. She is down over 60 pounds overall. How did she do it? Small, gradual lifestyle changes that made a huge difference in her health.
“First, I increased my days of exercise from three days per week to daily. I started slowly and listened to my body. I was sore in the beginning, but it got better. Then I mixed it up! I tried new activities like kickboxing one week or spin class the next. You can grab a friend for a local fitness event like the AHA’s Heart Walk, or local run or bike event. Challenge yourself to hit one small goal, like finishing the event, or finishing by a certain time. Then try to cut your time at the next event,” she said.
“Definitely examine your diet. Before BetterU, I ate unlimited carbs and didn’t “count” snacks as real calories. They are! Know your daily calories needed and aim for it,” said Donohue, “Plan, shop for and prep weekday meals on the weekend. On Sunday night, pack up your meals for each day of the week. Greek yogurt, nuts, Granny Smith apples, eggs, avocado, salad, chicken, and salmon are some favorite healthy foods.”
Donohue suggests trying a new veggie or new preparation of a favorite veg every week to expand your menu choices. She prepares cauliflower many ways like steamed, roasted, grilled, mashed, as a pizza crust, or cut into steaks.
“Be prepared for snack attacks with ready-to-go healthy snacks like cut veggies, fruit or nuts. Plan a healthy dessert, like fruit, that fits within your calorie goals. Drink more water or flavored seltzer, and reduce alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages, and sweet, creamy coffee beverages—those are empty calories that keep you from losing weight,” she said.
More than 60% of Americans are overweight or obese. Losing as few as 10 pounds decreases your heart disease risk. Weight loss is easier when you make the healthychoice the default choice.
Poughkeepsie resident, Robin Commerford was a 2017 BetterU Challenger and still uses the nutrition advice she got during the program which helped her drop a dress size and gain strength.
“Food prep is key to keep my family and I on track for the busy week ahead. On Sunday afternoon, I take about an hour and a half and prep lunches that my husband and I will use throughout the week,” said Commerford, “My favorite go-to ingredients are cooked shrimp and ground turkey, as well as chicken and vegetables. There are so many different recipes out there that are heart-healthy that you never get bored of eating the same thing.”
Other changes to diet include adding a salad at lunch and dinner, or swapping out white bread for healthier whole wheat and low-calorie bread. Try lower-fat meats, white-meat poultry, and fish like salmon and trout. Eat fruit for breakfast, have an apple or tangerine as a snack. Grab grapes instead of chips when you’re hungry. Put them up front and center in the refrigerator so you can’t miss them.
Learn more at www.healthyforgood.org.
The AHA’s “Life’s Simple 7” heart risk assessment and customized action plan tool can help get you started on a plan for health.
Access this free tool at www.mylifecheck.org/.
Follow the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 Steps to Get Heart-Healthier:
Keep Blood Pressure in the healthy range.
Keep Cholesterol in check.
Reduce blood sugar.