7 Resolutions Cardiologists Want You to Make This Year

If you're over 40, make an appointment this year to get your heart checked.
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February is American Heart Month, but you don't have to wait until then to show your heart some love.


Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the U.S., per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), so it's important to stay on top of your heart health in any way you can.

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We asked cardiologists what resolutions they'd like patients to make in regards to their hearts year. Here's what they said:

1. Make April the New January

As with most New Year's resolutions, we start out super motivated in January with diet and exercise goals, then lose momentum as the days go by.

This year, try to be more realistic about your resolutions. This can set you up for consistent, long-term changes in your health, which will ultimately protect your heart in the long term, too.

Case in point: "Diets [and exercise] that begin in colder months fail more than those that begin in the spring," says Allan Stewart, MD, a cardiac surgeon in Miami, Florida. "A great New Year's resolution is to set modest, realistic goals from January to March, and then as you succeed, ramp up those goals in the spring."


For example, maybe a 10,000-step-per-day goal is unrealistic in the wintertime, so start with 5,000 per day and increase as the weather gets warmer.

2. Add a Fruit or Veggie to Each Meal

Only 1 in 10 Americans eat the recommended amount of produce per day, according to the CDC.


But eating enough fruits and veggies reduces your risk of having (and dying from) heart disease and a stroke by up to 27 percent, per an October 2020 meta-analysis in the ‌Journal of the American Heart Association‌.

One doable way to eat more produce? "Add a piece of fresh fruit to your breakfast and a side of veggies to lunch and dinner," says Karishma Patwa, MD, a cardiologist with Manhattan Cardiology in NYC and contributor to LabFinder.com.



Another bonus: Eating more produce aligns with the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to be beneficial for your heart, per the Mayo Clinic.

3. Make Two Small Diet Changes Each Day

"The five major risk factors for heart disease — high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, overweight and poor diet — are often food-related," says Elizabeth Klodas, MD, FACC, a preventive cardiologist in Edina, Minnesota, and creator of Step One Foods.


"Changing your diet is especially powerful, but I'm not asking anyone to turn their life upside down," Dr. Klodas says.

Instead, plan to add one nutritious food and remove one not-so-nutritious food from your diet each day.

This could look like eating an apple a day and removing a can of soda each day (or whatever is applicable to your diet). While one day of change won't do much, sticking with this habit over the course of a year is very beneficial.


Dr. Klodas also mentions this two-per-day approach has helped people significantly reduce their "bad" LDL cholesterol within 30 days. This method was also supported by February 2020 research in ‌The Journal of Nutrition.

4. Walk in Shorter Bursts

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week for optimal health, per the CDC, which equals about 30 minutes of activity five days per week.


"If this amount feels daunting, you can try to break it into shorter bursts of exercise," Dr. Patwa says.

She recommends taking small, two- to three-minute walks every hour. If you spend eight hours of the day sitting at a desk, for example, that's about 24 minutes of walking a day — almost at the goal. Plus, you'll be giving your body a much-needed break from sitting still.


5. Actually Do 'Dry January' This Year

Alcohol — in any amount — is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, according to a March 2022 study in JAMA Network Open.

If you've tried to commit to a "dry" January (where you don't drink alcohol for the month) and have missed the mark, know that this is ‌the‌ ideal year to do it, Dr. Stewart says. That's because "New Year's Day is a Monday," he says.

Many people see Monday as the day to start fresh and kick off healthier habits. In contrast, Dr. Stewart says when the day falls on a Friday or Saturday, it's more difficult to start dry January, especially because the New Year parties can keep going through the weekend.

If you feel you've overindulged in alcohol over the holidays (as many of us do), dry January can give you a break. Plus, it gives you a chance to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol.

Keep in mind: This means you may have to change up how you socialize with friends, so planning is key, Dr. Stewart says. And try to avoid counting down the days until February 1, he adds.

"It's important not to count down the days until January 31, as it somewhat defeats the purpose of the potential joy you could feel in the process, or the potential to stay sober [beyond January 31]," he says.

6. Get More Sleep

If the hectic holiday season left you even more sleep-deprived than you already were, let January be the time you get into a good sleep schedule.

When we're low on sleep, we tend to reach for "quick pick-me-ups like caffeine and sugar," Dr. Klodas says, which can lead to heart palpitations and other issues.


The American Heart Association suggests getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night, as well as getting treated for sleep disorders, such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.

To that end: "Non-restorative sleep, especially when due to sleep apnea, can be a major contributor to high blood pressure," Dr. Klodas says, which is a risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and other serious health conditions.

If you, your bed partner or someone in your household suspects you have a sleep disorder (because you snore, talk in your sleep or stop breathing during sleep), this may be the year to finally get a sleep study done and treat the problem.

7. Make an Appointment to Get Your Heart Checked

Are you over 40? If so, Dr. Patwa recommends going to the cardiologist for a preventive screening.

This can help ensure your heart's working properly.

If your doctor has any concerns about your heart, they may run tests such as an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram or stress test, which are the best ways to pick up on heart disease, Dr. Patwa says.




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.