resolution post-its

The New Year is a perfect time to reflect on the past 12 months and decide what habits you want to carry with you into the New Year, and what you want to leave behind. Many people resolve to join a gym and work out after January 1. Why not focus that healthy energy on your most important muscle — your heart?

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Tips to Keep Focused on Cardiac Health

Here are some tips to help keep you focused on your resolution goals for overall and cardiac health:

  • Create realistic goals: When trying to make healthier lifestyle changes, pace yourself; set goals you know you can keep.
  • Keep it simple: If you aren’t used to running for an hour every day, start with 15 minute intervals and gradually work up to the full hour. It is important to consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
  • Maintain perspective: Changing a lifestyle habit isn’t always easy. These take time and sometimes we slip up, but try to maintain perspective and get back on track.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. According to the American Heart Association, in as many as 150,000 cases a year, a fatal heart attack is the first and only system of coronary artery disease. The good news is that it’s preventable. Once you identify your risk, you can manage it.

Ways to Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

Cardiac specialists have identified essential ways to reduce the risk of heart disease. These involve reducing the factors that lead to clogged arteries, which can restrict or cut off blood flow to the heart. Here’s how:

  • If you smoke, stop: Smoking causes buildup of fatty substances in the arteries.
  • Lower your blood pressure: High blood pressure makes the heart pump harder and can cause artery walls to bulge or burst.
  • Lower your cholesterol: High cholesterol results in accumulation of plaque in the arteries.
  • Get treatment for diabetes: Diabetes causes inflammation of blood vessels and results in more plaque-forming cholesterol.
  • Reduce your waistline: Abdominal obesity increases cholesterol levels, plaque, and inflammation of arteries.
  • Reduce stress: Stress can increase cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
  • Eat healthy: High-fat diets increase cholesterol. Eat foods low in fat, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Exercise: 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week burns fat and lowers cholesterol.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation: Individuals whose lifestyles include one 12-ounce beer, one four-ounce glass of wine, or one ounce of liquor up to three times a week have been shown to have a reduced risk of heart disease. Consumption in excess of that increases risk of heart disease.
  • Get a heart screening: A heart screening includes checking your risk assessment, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), cholesterol levels, blood glucose, and other heart disease indicators.

If you are at risk, or think you may be at risk for any of these factors, or to learn more about how to reduce your risk for heart disease, consult your primary care physician or visit to find a heart screening in your community.

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.