• Laurel Contributor

2020 Healthy resolutions

by Luke Osteen

A few sensible steps can help ensure that your heart remains healthy throughout the new year.

With the start of a new year, many of us make resolutions to pursue healthier lifestyles. Since February is Heart Month, we turned to Patti Wheeler, MD, for some advice on how to ensure that our hearts are healthy and happy throughout the year.

Dr. Wheeler has served generations of Plateau residents, and she’s come up with some easy ways to keep our hearts operating as they were designed. These steps can be incorporated into your New Year’s resolutions and ultimately become part of your everyday routine.

The most important thing you can do is to decide to stop smoking. “This can make an enormous difference in your future, reducing the risk of heart disease by 50 percent,” says Dr. Wheeler. She emphasizes that even if you’re unsuccessful in your first attempt, you just need to try again, and again after that.

“It’s not easy, and if you fail at first, you may feel that that’s it – but don’t allow yourself to feel defeated,” she says. “There’s nothing to prevent you from trying again. You may just need to build your willpower and find the right smoking-cessation program.”

Another simple step toward heart health is resolving to exercise for 30 minutes three times a week.

“It doesn’t have to be anything too strenuous – simply walking is wonderful exercise,” says Dr. Wheeler. “If you can just commit to walking three times a week for 30 minutes, I think you’ll be amazed at how it makes you and your heart feel.”

Dr. Wheeler’s next suggestion is perhaps almost as difficult as smoking cessation – cutting back on calories and eating more sensibly.

“Eating healthier is a resolution that almost everyone makes,” says Dr. Wheeler. She adds some encouragement for those who feel their commitment wavering. “Being mindful of how much you eat can help you make good decisions. Just pay attention.

“Everyone eats too many carbohydrates – we average about 70 grams a day. Cut back on those, and eat more protein.”

If you’re also getting a good workout, you should also notice that you’re getting a better night’s sleep, helping to ensure that there’s less stress in your life.

“So you want to make sure you’re getting enough hours of sleep every night – it makes sure that you start your days with less stress and more energy,” says Dr. Wheeler. “If it seems like you should be waking up refreshed, but you’re starting each day feeling fatigued, tell your doctor. This could be a sign of sleep apnea – the repeated stopping and starting of your breathing while you sleep.”

Dr. Wheeler can prescribe therapies that’ll help you control this condition, which help ensure you get a good night’s sleep and the possibilities for a healthy 2020 remain bright.

Take the heart health quiz at missionhealth.org/heart to assess your risk factor.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Wheeler, call Mission Community Medicine Highlands at (828) 526-4942.

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