Skip to Content

Achieving heart health requires one of two things—making healthier lifestyle changes and keeping up with heart-healthy habits once we’ve adopted them. Making healthy lifestyle changes and sticking to them is the key to improving heart health, preventing heart disease, or managing heart disease if you already have it.

But switching from unhealthy habits to healthy ones can be challenging, to say the least. We get it.

In fact, common statements our cardiologists hear from patients in our clinic include:

  • “I tried to make all the changes necessary for a healthier heart, but I got burnt out.”
  • “I had to make so many changes that I got overwhelmed and couldn’t even make one.”
  • “I wanted to start making healthier choices, but life got in the way.”
  • “I was making better lifestyle choices for a while, but it was too easy to fall back into old patterns.”

Again, we completely understand. It’s challenging to change up your habits and lifestyle, especially if it means working in more exercise, eating a better diet, reducing stress, and even stopping smoking for the good of your heart.

On top of everything that goes into developing new habits, one of the biggest pitfalls patients run into is making huge strides to improve their day-to-day habits, which end up being too difficult to maintain.

Kind of like starting a marathon without any practice or training, overhauling your lifestyle choices all at once can ultimately lead to burnout, which can leave you feeling discouraged, unmotivated, or unsuccessful.

There are ways to set yourself up for success, though. By making and sticking to minor improvements in the beginning, it can become easier and easier to adapt to more changes over time, ultimately leading to successful changes in your lifestyle and motivation to keep improving.

Take a look at these four small steps you can start making to get started on the journey to a healthier heart.

1. Move Your Body for 10 Minutes Each Day

Every heart doctor is going to tell you that daily exercise is an essential component of keeping your heart healthy. In addition to exercise being good for your heart, it also helps improve muscle strength, blood flow, chemical releases, and more. But, adopting a 30-minute or hour-long workout routine to complete every day can sound downright impossible.

What can you do? Set aside just 10 minutes to move your body. By carving out 10 minutes each day for movement, you can benefit your heart and extend your sessions over time. Even if you need to wake up 10 minutes earlier than usual or stay up 10 minutes later than you usually do, 10 minutes of movement can help start you on a healthy habit of daily exercise.

10-minute exercise ideas you can start doing:

  • Take a walk (add the kids or the family dog!)
  • Do some yoga or stretches
  • Clean a room in your house
  • Lift some weights (they don’t have to be heavy!)
  • Dance around the living room
  • Do some laps if you have a pool or access to a pool

2. Start Snacking on Nuts, Fruits, and Veggies

Diet is one of the hardest things to improve, especially here in America. For starters, many of the food products in the Western diet are chock full of harmful ingredients that have adverse effects on our hearts and overall physical health. So many of our popular food products, including our snack foods, tend to contain excessive amounts of sodium, as well as refined sugars, refined flours, and saturated and trans fats.

Second, what makes these foods so bad for us is also what makes these foods delicious and addictive. A lot of our processed food options are designed to taste amazing and rewire our brains to crave them so that we’ll keep going back for more. If it’s painfully difficult to put down the candy bar or the bag of chips, you aren’t alone. They’re made to be that way.

What can you do? Begin making small swaps in your diet, starting with your snack foods. Instead of choosing chips, pretzels, extra-salty popcorn, candy, or other not-so-healthy options, reach for a handful of nuts, your favorite fruits, or some veggies. There are lots of ways to dress up your vegetables—kale chips, beet chips, and even homemade baked potato chips can be super satisfying and delicious—and unless you’re allergic to them, nuts are as satiating as they are tasty.

Trying to cut out all the unhealthy foods in your diet cold turkey can lead to burnout and failure. But making small changes, starting with your snack foods, can make the transition much easier over time.

Healthy snack in heart shaped bowl. Top view

3. Make Your Mornings Nutritious

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Why? Because it’s the first bit of nutrients your body receives after not having anything to digest overnight. (That’s why it’s called breakfast—you’re breaking your nighttime fast with whatever foods you choose to eat.)

If the first things you feed your body in the morning are meals that are low in essential nutrients and high in sugars, refined flours, and saturated or trans fats, you’re not doing your heart or your body many favors. But, if your breakfast is highly nutritious, you’ll be feeding your body the nutrients it needs to improve functions, including heart functions.

What can you do? Optimize your breakfast plate with highly nutritious foods. Choose fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins for your morning meals. Want to really improve your breakfast? Reach for single-ingredient products (fresh fruits, veggies, eggs, chicken, etc.) and unprocessed or minimally processed products (all-natural peanut butter, plain yogurt, whole wheat bread, etc.) for the most nutrition.

Need some ideas? You can start incorporating these onto your breakfast plate:

  • Apples and natural peanut butter.
  • Traditional oatmeal with healthy toppings added, like cinnamon, blueberries, chia seeds, honey, or whatever sounds delicious to you.
  • Whole wheat toast topped with avocado, natural peanut butter, strawberries and honey, or another healthy topping.
  • Breakfast smoothies filled with your desired fruits or veggies and low-fat milk, non-dairy milk, plain yogurt, and even a low-sugar or no-sugar protein powder.
  • Omelet made with your choice of included veggies.

By starting your day with healthy food choices, it can become easier to make more nutritious food choices as the day goes on.

4. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

A good night’s sleep is good for everybody. Making it a habit to get enough sleep throughout the night is important to improving and maintaining heart health. For some people, sleep comes easy—they can take an hour-long nap two hours before their bedtime and still be able to sleep through the night. Others aren’t so lucky—they can struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep, even if they crawl into bed exhausted from the day.

While we’ve all had nights where we couldn’t get enough sleep, if bad nights are typical for you, your heart health could be suffering. Regular sleep quality and risk of heart disease are connected, regardless of your weight, age, exercise levels, or smoking habits.

What can you do? Start incorporating small changes into your nighttime routine to help set yourself up for more successful sleep.

A few small changes to try can include:

  • Setting a bedtime and sticking to it.
  • Lowering the temperature in the room.
  • Avoiding caffeine late at night (and even in the afternoons or evenings).
  • Avoid afternoon or evening naps.
  • Keep your room as dark as possible.
  • Use a white-noise machine.
  • Change your mattress if yours is uncomfortable.
  • Avoid screens roughly an hour before bedtime. (Reading a book before bed can help!)

We have many more tips and suggestions to help you slowly and steadily change your habits and improve your heart health. Learn about them all from your cardiologist at Middle Georgia Heart.

Our cardiologists understand the importance of healthy choices and how difficult it can be to make certain habit changes. We’ll be glad to share beneficial tips and advice for improving your exercise routines, diet, sleeping habits, and more so that you can be encouraged to stick to healthier lifestyle choices for good.

Schedule an appointment with our team today! 478-207-5224.

Recent Articles

Can A Better Diet Reverse My Heart Disease?

5 Heart Attack Facts Your Heart Doctor Wants You to Know

4 Habits Your Middle Georgia Heart Doctor Practices and So Can You

3 Common Heart Conditions Treated by Your Middle Georgia Heart Doctor