A decision to live well often prompts personal changes—such as losing weight, eating right and exercising more—to rise to the top of our to-do lists. UR Medicine Heart and Vascular Cardiologist Dr. Kevin McGrody shares five practical lifestyle choices to support your wellness goals.
- Adopt a common-sense approach to your diet. Prepare meals with a variety of lean meats, seafood, and fresh fruits and vegetables. When snacking, choose berries full of antioxidants and nuts—almonds, walnuts or macadamia nuts. This ensures a balanced diet rich in protein, vitamins and minerals and a higher content of mono- and poly-unsaturated fats that aid weight loss and reduce bad cholesterol levels. Avoid prepackaged foods, which are often high in salt that can raise your blood pressure and your risk of heart disease and stroke. Be conscious of your total daily caloric intake, but don’t make it your primary focus. A global view of nutrition and a balanced diet help to reduce the calories, sugar and sodium we eat.
- Get your heart pumping and your body moving through regular exercise to elevate your heart rate for 20 to 30 minutes, three to five times each week. Change-up your regimen to exercise all of your muscles. This will help you boost your metabolism, lose weight, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and improve your heart function.
- Stay physically and mentally healthy. Our lives are hectic and we often feel stretched to our limits. Take time to step away from it all. Enjoy hobbies that allow you to relax. Slowing down and taking cleansing breaths triggers a soothing chain-reaction that lowers blood pressure and heart rate, giving your body and mind a much-needed break.
- Avoid tobacco. If you smoke, do whatever it takes to stop. Smoking constricts lung function and wreaks havoc on your organs. Nicotine robs precious oxygen from the heart, thickens vein and artery walls, and increases harmful clotting, which can cause a heart attack or stroke. Get help with quitting by talking to your doctor and rallying family and friends for support, and contacting the New York State Smokers’ Quitline (1-866-NY-QUITS).
- Sleep well. Your body needs “down time” to restore itself. If your day includes balanced meals, exercise and relaxation time, a good night’s sleep should come naturally. While there’s debate about how much time we should spend sleeping, few adults get seven or eight hours a night. I believe the quality of sleep is equally—if not more—important than the quantity. Avoid heavy snacks or alcohol before bed because your body will have to digest it and that’s not restorative.
Choosing to make these lifestyle changes will serve as a solid foundation for a heart-healthy life.
Kevin McGrody, M.D., is part of UR Medicine’s Rochester Cardiopulmonary Group and sees patients at offices in Brighton, Rochester and Newark. He completed his training at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.