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Five Daily Habits for a Healthy Heart

Take care of your heart.  Your heart affects every part of your body.  Your heart does the most physical work of any muscle during your lifetime.  It beats about 100,000 times a day, and with this faithful steady beat you have the gift of life. You control your heart health through your diet, lifestyle, and managing your stress.  Your emotional and physical well-being are both important for maintaining a healthy heart.

Start today to develop some daily heart-healthy habits to protect this vital organ.  Habits are the small decisions you make and actions you take each day. What we repeatedly do and focus on forms the person that we are.  The sum of your daily habits ultimately forms the current status of your emotional and physical health.

Find 30 minutes a day to exercise. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five days per week.  For people who would benefit from lowering their blood pressure or cholesterol, they recommend 40 minutes of aerobic exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity three to four times a week.

You can break this out into 15 minute intervals twice per day. On days you can’t make the 30-minute time goal start with at least ten or fifteen minutes. Don’t let the “all or nothing” goal stop you from making health gains today. Just start walking. Every step you take you are on your way to better health. You can build up to a 30-minute brisk power walk. Find a sport, fitness class or activity that you enjoy. Consider activities such as swimming, bicycling, tennis or dancing. When you get your body moving and your blood pumping your heart will benefit. And don’t forget to include strength training twice per week. Lifting weights and using whole body movements will raise your heart rate, strengthen your muscles and help manage stress.

Enjoy colorful, wholesome foods. Choose nutrient-rich foods every day that will benefit your heart and your health. Eat a variety of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables at each meal and snack.   Choose fiber-rich whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Include lean protein and healthy oils such as olive oil and flaxseed oil. Don’t forget to include fish at least once a week and fresh herbs and spices daily.  Focus on what you should eat. Instead of focusing on what you can’t have, focus on all the healthy choices and you will be too full to eat junk food.

Make sure to get seven to eight hours of sleep.  The better night’s sleep you get the healthier your heart will be. Several recent studies show links between shortened sleep duration, defined as less than six hours of sleep, and increased risk of heart disease.  The key to making sure you have time for quality sleep is to schedule it. Keep a consistent schedule for the time that you sleep and awake each day. Make this a habit and it will become part of your daily routine. Support this schedule by creating a bedtime routine that helps you relax with hot baths, journaling, soothing music or good books.

Practice deep breathing at least 15 minutes.  Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. Increased heart rate, fast breathing and high blood pressure, which all happen when you are stressed; all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax.  Your brain receives the message to calm down and relax and sends this message to your body.  Breathe long, slow and deep in a mindful-state as often as possible.  As a powerful daily practice, deep breathing will advance your health and well-being.

Cultivate gratitude and acknowledge the good things in life. Some research suggests that by cultivating gratitude we cultivate well-being.  The simple act of writing down what you are grateful for can increase well-being and gratitude.  Taking time to meditate with appreciation and praying more often has been found to help people be more grateful.  Simply ask yourself each day, “What am I grateful for?”  This question will open up a wider outlook on life and can bring awareness and appreciation to the positive aspects within you and around you. A grateful heart is a healthier heart.

If you desire better or lasting health, it all starts with better habits. When you learn to transform your habits you can transform your life.

Three Simple Ways to Jump Start Your “New You” Resolution Today

“I’ll start tomorrow” is a popular phrase for so many of us when we know we need to make a positive change.  It seems easier to let procrastination have its way rather than face that dreaded discipline that is required for change.  But does tomorrow ever come?  It is always easier to delay change until… after the holidays, after this project at work is finished, or after the kids go back to school.  There are many reasons that we put off making the changes we know would benefit our lives.

A fear of failure: Although there is no chance of failure if we never try anything new, our greatest lessons and wisdom comes from overcoming our mistakes. We all fall. When we “fall off the wagon” or “miss the mark” we must dust off our knees and climb back on board.   

Perfectionism: This causes us to put off making a change until we believe we can do it perfectly. So often it is easier to do nothing than to think we won’t be able to do as well as we would like.  It is not important to achieve perfection.  The more steps we take that are positive, the more our health is improved.

But we can overcome the procrastination trap.  Start today, with the three steps listed below, to find your inner focus and motivation to jump start your “new you” resolution.

One Step at a Time

Break your goals down into simple steps you can start to implement today.  Even implementing small changes can transform your life.  If you start small, you will be more likely to take immediate action.  Each small “win” will move you forward with confidence.   If your overall goal is to lose weight, have more energy and improve your health, for instance, it can be daunting to think of incorporating all of the lifestyle changes required to meet your goal. So pick one simple change that you can do right away.  Make the change measurable, specific, and attainable. Perhaps you could pick up a new cook book and practice some new healthy recipes. Or you could make a plan to pick one day a week to cut up a variety of colorful vegetables.  Have them in your refrigerator, ready to go, promising yourself to eat them by the end of the week. Think of colorful stir-fries, smoothies and beautiful salads.  And with the added motivation you will have from incorporating this one new habit, you will be ready to focus on your next step.

Focus on an Inspirational Vision

Without a clear vision or focus we will drift through our days, living in default-mode, expending all of our energy in the here and now. If you are going to change an area of your life you need to get a clear and compelling vision for what you want to accomplish. A vision is like a goal but more vivid because you can clearly see it.  A vision is a picture in the mind that you focus on. Your energy will go toward where your focus is.  So don’t focus on what you want to get rid of or you will always have it. Focus on what you desire.  Create your vision, concentrate on that target, and you will automatically gravitate to what you desire.  If your goal is to lose weight and be healthy, envision yourself in the best physical shape of your life.  Let your thoughts settle and simply dream about looking and feeling your absolute best.  Hold that image of yourself… see the skin tone, the shape and every facet of your body.  See yourself in that outfit or suit that makes you feel like a million bucks.  See yourself doing what you love, and feeling fit and fabulous.  See your vision clearly and never let it fade.  Be in tune with this vision of yourself and your life… how happy you are, how active you are, how energized you are, how fantastic you look and feel.  Your mind is your GPS system and with this vision your mind and body will work in sync to make your vision a reality.

Keep Yourself Motivated

The best motivator is to have a genuine reason to change.  Tap into the higher wisdom within yourself by always remembering why… know why you want to change and move forward, so the daily distractions and short-term desires will not overshadow your long-term goals.  Is your quality of life diminished by lack of energy, excess weight, stress, depression, or declining health? When your “why” is strong enough you can change that voice in your head that says, “Oh, forget it, it’s not going to happen.” That voice that says, “Don’t start now, you’re getting ready to go on that cruise.”  Or, “Don’t get out of your warm, cozy bed one-half hour early to exercise!”  When your vision is a healthy mind and body filled with energy and vitality – making good choices is not a sacrifice but an inspiration.  Get clear about what’s most important to you today.  Knowing your why is the best place to start to train a new powerful voice within yourself that will inspire you on to your “new you” resolution.

Think of someone that can be there for you to cheer you on and hold you accountable to follow through with your goals.  It can be a family member, friend, co-worker, or a health coach.  It’s much easier to succeed when you have someone believing in you even when you feel tempted to falter from your path.

Start today to unlock your highest potential and live the life you dream of living.

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-Diane Duvall, CLC, CHHC, CPT

Are you ready to start your wellness journey but are unsure of where to begin? As your health coach, I can help you create a personalized roadmap to your goals. Reach out today to see if our Lifestyle Coaching Program can help you create the foundation needed to achieve lasting health and happiness.

Diane Duvall is a Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, M.D., Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.  Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine to prevent chronic disease and promote health and wellness.

Dr. Geni Abraham, M.D., Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Suite A, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone:  (561) 432-8935

Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook

Nutrition and Your Health

For many people “diet” is a 4 letter word. It has such a negative connotation and makes us think of all the wonderful foods we are depriving ourselves of.  Dieting, makes us feel as though we are punishing ourselves and that food is not meant to be enjoyed. Our thoughts and feelings need to shift from losing weight to getting healthy. We need to change our thinking and make the whole idea about good nutrition and feeling good.

What is the purpose of food?  It is fuel for our bodies. Good nutrition, gives us energy and focus to do our daily activities without a struggle. When we provide ourselves the ingredients and nourishment it needs, our bodies and minds thrive and become less sluggish and perform at peak efficiency. Imagine a day with the perfect amount of energy and clarity. We can achieve that without “dieting”. We can eat smart, and be mindful of our health.

There are many different nutrition plans out there. The big question is what should be considered a good plan for ourselves and our families. Some are just fads that don’t have long lasting benefits and some have a lot of merit. After much research, the Mediterranean diet is evident to be the most effective in maintenance of good health. And it is apparent that while this plan is not the quickest way to lose weight, it is the one that helps us to keep it off long term the best. It is shown to reduce the incidence of diabetes, heart disease, strokes and even cancers.  It is not a quick fix, rather a long-term benefit to our good health and overall well-being.

What is a Mediterranean diet? It is not a flavor profile, it is what you eat.  Meaning the kinds of foods you are eating. This includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, dairy, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats, like olive oil and avocados. You can take these foods and eat American one day, Indian another and Italian another.

We have enclosed a handout that shows you how to “eat the rainbow”. We should be eating something from each category.  Each food category represents sources for nutrients broadly divided into proteins, good fats and carbohydrates. When you eat a variety of colors you get micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that will promote proper functioning of our body systems.  Think of it in terms of gas in your car is macronutrients and the oil is micronutrients.  You need both for optimum working of your car. You are a human machine and unlike a car, you are irreplaceable.

The benefits of a good diet and proper hydration are shown to: increase metabolism, fill you up, aid in weight loss, flush out toxins, healthier skin, help digestion, & relieve fatigue. It is also important to refrain or limit yourself from sodas. They have no benefit to our bodies and can cause a great deal of harm. You should drink half our ideal weight in ounces of water.

In the near future, I will be providing more detailed information and facts.  For now, let us keep it simple and “eat the rainbow”. Let us all work together to eat as much as we can from these food categories. Concentrate on eating the right foods and you will be full and healthy. Create healthy habits, not restrictions.

In Health,

Dr. Geni Abraham

Please check with your doctor before starting any new weight loss and or health plan.