16. Check salt content in foods
“The most common mistake patients make is not checking the sodium content in the foods they are eating,” Conte-Russian said. The amount of salt in the diet can drastically alter the blood pressure of a person who already suffers from hypertension, he noted. “Only about 25% of the sodium in the American diet comes from added ‘table salt,’ so it is very important to check how much sodium has already been added [during manufacturing] to the foods patients are eating.”
17. Avoid microwavable dinners
These processed foods may be cost effective but are often lacking in many of the essential nutrients that the body needs to function correctly, according to Conte-Russian. Microwavable dinners usually have too much sodium or sugar, which can lead to hypertension and/or increased risk of diabetes when eaten consistently, he noted.
18. Get your teeth cleaned
A good resolution is to get your teeth cleaned and to do so on regular basis. “There is a strong correlation between gum disease and cardiac health,” according to Dr. Alfred Casale, associate chief medical officer for Geisinger and chair of the Geisinger Heart Institute. “It’s related to inflammation, which is the body’s response to perceived injury.” The bacteria in the mouth that causes periodontal disease can move into the bloodstream and lead to inflammation in the blood vessels, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
19. Move more
“I don’t care what you do, anything is better than nothing,” Casale said. “It’s easy to keep the heart healthy with pretty modest exercise.” Small, incremental and subtle changes are what you should be aiming for. A few examples include parking the car farther away or walking up a few flights of stairs. There is no doubt that exercising for 20 minutes a day is better than aspiring to run a 5K, he noted.
20. Don’t go crazy with your diet
“You can find 15 books on every new hot diet out there, but they all boil down to the notion that vegetables and plant-based foods are healthy and you need modest intake of calories to control weight and metabolism,” Casale said. Just make a few changes that accommodate your lifestyle, he suggested. Eat dessert and steak if you like them — just not every day. “I see many patients who go manic about their diet after a scare, but it doesn’t last,” he added.