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In the New Year, Find it in Your Heart to Get Healthy

Good nutrition and an active lifestyle are a recipe for good health.

As 2012 begins, one health-related fact emerges that should make us seriously consider lifestyle changes in the New Year. 

As the American Heart Association (AHA) reports in its December 2011 issue of its online journal "Circulation", 94 percent of U.S. adults get a 'poor' rating in heart health factors, including weight, physical activity, diet, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels. 

Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in our country, these findings are certainly alarming.

Additionally, the AHA reports that obesity continues to be the biggest contributor to the risk of heart disease, with 67 percent of American adults and nearly 32 percent of children clinically overweight or obese – and those numbers are constantly rising.

One explanation, the AHA says, is that in recent years the average calorie consumption went up by 22 percent in women and 10 percent in men, with most of the increase coming from unhealthy foods and large portion sizes.

The AHA reports that 33 percent of adults don’t engage in physical activity at all, and many more fall short of the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. 

What can we do to defy these statistics and improve our cardiovascular health? 

Better eating habits and a regular exercise program should be at the top of our New Year resolutions list.

For example: 

  • Do your heart a favor and cut out (or at least drastically reduce) saturated fats, sugar, too much salt, as well as refined foods from your diet. Instead, focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, as well as low-fat diary and lean protein.
  • Make fitness an integral part of your daily life. The best way to make sure you stick with your exercise program is to find a physical activity that’s enjoyable and varied so it is fun rather than a chore. 

If you're like most people, you probably commit to making these lifestyle changes every year, but end up throwing in the towel pretty quickly. In 2012, make them your priority.

By Shannon Wallace, Jr., CPT, owner of 368 Athletics & 368 Bootcamps in Frederick, MD. 

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