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By Nutrition Experts


Monday, January 30, 2012.


So, you want to decrease your risk of heart disease. You’ve heard it a thousand times before - follow a healthy lifestyle. That’s a no brainer.


Sure, it boils down to a few basic guidelines that make sense. They include things like: eating a balanced diet, watching your portions, exercising often, and refraining from smoking. Sounds simple enough, right? Then why are so many of us doing just the opposite? Because, we’ve gotten ourselves into an unhealthy lifestyle rut.


Our lives are more hectic than ever, so we look for convenience. Between work, school, socialising, hobbies and the kids, there’s just no time to eat right and exercise. And we’re paying the price with our health.


The question is, how do we get out of this unhealthy lifestyle rut? The answer is really quite simple. It will take a commitment to making a few changes in your current lifestyle - there’s no getting around this. But don’t fret, we’ve figured it out for you. The following are what we determined to be the "lifestyle habits" of highly healthy people.


Make a mental note of how many of these are habits you are already hooked on.


Habit No.1: Highly healthy people make health, nutrition and weight management a priority.


No matter how busy you are, the most important thing is your health. The key to good health is taking preventative measures every day, like eating right, exercising consistently and refraining from smoking. Equally important is early detection of diseases through regular health screenings appropriate for your age group. Visit your doctor for a check up to find out your cholesterol and blood pressure readings. This will help you to know what you need to work on.



Habit No.2: Highly healthy people make better food choices everyday.


Better food habits can help you reduce your risk for heart attack, so it’s important to choose foods that taste great and pack a nutritional punch. The easiest way to do this is to include the healthiest selections from the five food groups with an emphasis on getting your five to 10 fruits and veggies and enough fibre each day. You should also try to reduce your salt intake by not adding it during cooking or at the table, and choosing lower salt versions of foods like baked beans and other tinned foods. By doing this you will retrain your mind and body to go for more whole foods (heart protective), rather than unhealthy, fatty, processed, packaged junk foods.


Habit No.3: Highly healthy people practice safe portion control.


Following the recommended serving sizes from the major food groups automatically helps to keep your weight in check. Restaurants and fast food places serve portions that are two to five times larger than they were in the 1950’s - no wonder heart disease is on the rise. By consistently eating smaller portions of food, you’ll begin to be satisfied with these portions; it only takes a few days for the body to adjust.


Habit No.4: Highly healthy people drink eight glasses of water per day.


Staying hydrated helps rid your body of toxins, reduces stress levels, enhances your metabolism and makes you feel fuller. Try to limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine, as they tend to be dehydrating. Drink at least 8 (200 ml) glasses of water per day, or fill a 2 litre bottle in the morning with water and drink it throughout the day.


Habit No.5: Highly healthy people plan their meals in advance. Many of the people featured in our success stories have admitted that weekly menu planning is the key to staying on course with new healthy lifestyle goals. Prepare a shopping list before you go to the store; if you stock your fridge with healthy foods, you’re probably going to eat them. Prepare meals and snacks in advance; it makes it less likely that you will grab something unhealthy if you shop when you’re hungry.


Habit No.6: Highly healthy people exercise consistently.


Exercise is one thing that can help you get your heart in shape immediately. Plus, it can make your bones stronger, it beats stress, fights off mild depression and can help you sleep better at night. Being active on a regular basis reduces your risk of heart disease by up to 25 percent. Just do it, as they say.


Habit No.7: Highly healthy people "chill out" to keep their stress levels in check.


Too much stress can cause blood pressure to rise and is believed to be a major risk factor for heart disease. Controlling your blood pressure can yield a 20 percent risk reduction. The best way to deal with stress is to use a range of coping mechanisms, including yoga, meditation, therapy and a good chat with a friend.


Make their habits your habits.


Now that we’ve given you the lowdown on the habits of highly healthy people, here are a few pointers that will help you make the transition from unhealthy to healthy less traumatic:


• Focus on incorporating new healthy habits, rather than focusing on breaking bad habits; psychologically, it will be easier.
• Instead of stressing out over an all-or-nothing approach, think in terms of moderation. Focus on the things you can do, rather than on the things you can’t. We don’t promote complete abstinence from junk food, mainly because it’s unrealistic, it’s too inflexible, and frankly, it’s no fun. Instead, we promote moderation and making better lifestyle choices.


Still not convinced that you should make some changes?


Here’s some good news. It’s never too late to start eating right and exercising. The sooner you start, the sooner you can start undoing a lifetime of bad habits. Research has shown that the body has an amazing ability to heal itself. It’s a fact that the risk of heart disease can be greatly decreased by living a healthier lifestyle. But don’t take our word for it, here’s what the experts are saying:


• Healthy foods can help you reduce the major risk factors for heart attack - high cholesterol, high blood pressure and excess body weight. (British Heart Foundation)


• Consuming a healthy diet is one of the best ways to prevent or combat heart disease. (Harvard Nurses Health Study)


• For every 1 percent drop in LDL (bad) cholesterol, you get a 2 percent reduction in heart-disease risk. (Heart UK)


• Quitting smoking greatly reduces the risk of heart disease within a year. (British Heart Foundation)


• Not smoking, maintaining a normal weight, consuming a healthy diet, exercising consistently and drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may help reduce the risk of heart disease by about 80 percent. (Harvard Nurses Health Study)

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