February is American Heart Month and Go Red for Women.
We’re all well aware of the benefits and recommendations for being more heart-healthy – we know we should be eating right, exercising more, lowering stress – yet while we may promise to do more of the right things and break the bad habits we’ve fallen into, it’s easier said than done.
So rather than reiterate the good habits we should be following, here are some ideas from the American Heart Association provided by Rani Whitfield, M.D., a Baton Rouge, La., family practitioner and American Heart Association volunteer on how to change those bad habits into good ones.
According to Dr. Whitfield, it takes 60 to 90 days to create a new habit – so keep at it and don’t get discouraged because it’s not instant gratification.
Second, he suggests thinking of the new habit as a replacement rather than deprivation. “Kojak sucked on lollipops because he was stopping smoking,” said Whitfield of the famous 1970s TV detective. Of course, too much candy is bad for you also – but a few lollipops are much better than smoking when it comes to your heart health.
His top tips for successfully breaking bad habits are simple but effective:
1. As with most difficult challenges, break your big goal into smaller short-term achievable goals.
Instead of going cold turkey on eating everything you shouldn’t, or planning to exercise two hours a day, seven days a week, establish increasing but realistic targets.
2. Tell someone you trust what you are trying to accomplish and be accountable to that person.
The right “buddy” can be the most significant motivator to help you succeed.
3. Allow a “cheat” once in a while.
It doesn’t mean you’ve failed if you eat a cookie or miss one Zumba class – don’t make it a habit.
4. Break the TV or online habit in favor of exercise.
If you must catch that show, at least exercise while you’re watching.
His best advice: Keep at it. Your greatest wealth is your health.