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Exercise for Heart Health

Regular physical activity is an excellent way to keep your heart healthy. Plus, exercise helps you look and feel slim and trim. Good weight-bearing activities include walking, lifting hand weights, and carrying groceries. Also helpful are activities that promote flexibility and balance, such as T'ai Chi and yoga.

Here are some simple suggestions for incorporating exercise into your daily routine:

  • Take the stairs versus the escalator or elevator
  • Park your car further from the store entrance
  • Walk to the mailbox instead of swinging by in the car
  • Get rid of the remote control and move during commercial breaks
  • Over-emphasize motion when vacuuming, raking, sweeping or washing the car
  • Walk around the soccer field at your child's game
  • Take the long way to office meetings and walk while waiting for a plane
  • Get up from your computer each hour; store your sneakers underneath your desk
  • Walk a message to your co-worker versus email
  • Buy a pedometer and aim to get the recommended 10,000 steps per day

Remember, getting your exercise doesn't mean you have to purchase expensive gym equipment. Use items you have around the house, like soup cans as weights, to build strength and help tone muscles. Repeat each of the following movements 15 times:

  • Circles: With a can in each hand, make big circles, as if swimming.
  • Flying: Raise arms up to shoulder height and back down to hips, as if trying to flap your wings.
  • Curling: With palms turned forward, bend elbow bringing cans up to shoulder and back down to hips.
  • Overhead reach: Push cans from shoulders straight up over head.
  • Rowing: Lean over a chair, rest one hand on seat, reach and pull as if trying to start a lawn mower.

Aim for a Healthy Weight

If you are overweight, taking off pounds can directly reduce your chances of developing heart disease. If you're overweight, even a small weight loss will help to lower your risk of heart disease and other medical conditions. At the very least, try to avoid gaining added weight.

When it comes to weight loss, there are no quick fixes. Lasting weight loss requires a change of lifestyle, which includes adopting a healthy, lower-calorie eating plan and getting regular physical activity. Aim to lose no more than ½ to two pounds per week. If you have a lot of weight to lose, ask your doctor, a registered dietitian, or a qualified nutritionist to help you develop a sensible plan for gradual weight loss.


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Kick the Smoking Habit

There is nothing easy about giving up cigarettes, but with a plan of action, you can do it. Become aware of your personal smoking triggers - the situations that typically bring on the urge to light up - and replace them with new activities. Eat healthfully, get regular physical activity, and ask friends and family for support. You also may want to participate in an organized program to help people quit smoking, offered by many health organizations and workplaces. Also, several medications are now available to help people stop smoking. Ask your doctor whether you should try any of these medicines.


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