4 healthy habits to kick-start your new year

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Ward off the cold with these foods!

With the holidays behind us and summer a few short months ahead, now is the perfect time to incorporate healthy habits into our routine to kick-start the new year. According to Heart & Stroke, 8 in 10 cases of premature heart disease and stroke cases can be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices. Continue reading for 4 healthy habits that can lead to a healthier you:

1. Eat healthy

You know that old saying, you can’t outrun a bad diet. One of the best ways to improve your overall health is by choosing healthier food options. And one of the easiest ways to do that is by incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your meals. Try to get at least 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Go for dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and kale. The dark green in vegetables contain a large amount of folate, a B vitamin that is important for heart health. Vitamin K (which protects the bones) and antioxidants (which help fight diseases) are also found in dark leafy greens. Try blending the leafy greens into your smoothie or adding it to your soups and side dishes in order to meet your recommended daily requirement.

During the winter months, fresh produce may not be as abundant. Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables may be more readily available. Be sure to look out for “no added sugar”, “no added syrup” or “no added salt” when making your purchases.

2. Stay active

Regular physical activity can decrease our stress, increase our strength and energy and slow the physical decline of age. Heart & Stroke recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week (in bouts of 10 minutes or more). Older adults in particular are encouraged to do muscle and bone strengthening activities twice a week to improve balance and prevent falls. There are videos online of at-home exercises that you can do a few times a few.

3. Sleep well

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults aged 26-64 should sleep between 7-9 hours a day. And adults 65 and older should be sleeping 7-8 hours a day. Getting a good night’s rest will affect your mood, energy level and your health. Sleep helps your body heal faster and helps restore sore or damaged muscles.

Here are some healthy sleep habits to get your best rest:

  • Be consistent. Stick to a sleep schedule even on weekends.
  • Practice a bedtime ritual so that your body knows when you will be going to sleep. This can include taking a hot bath, reading a book or taking five deep breaths.
  • Turn off electronics before going to bed. Or better yet, leave your electronics outside of your bedroom.
  • Create a comfortable environment. Adjust the temperature in your room, get a mattress and pillow to your liking.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol before going to bed.

4. Reduce stress

Stress is the dreaded six-letter word that seems to have ingrained itself into our society. Not only can stress lead to depression and anxiety, it can also increase your risk of getting a heart disease or stroke. Recognizing your stressors and learning to cope with stress are necessary tools in your arsenal. While everyone has different stressors and coping mechanisms, here are some tips to help alleviate stress:

  • Count to 10 before you react.
  • Take slow, deep breaths and concentrate on releasing parts of your body that are holding tension.
  • Walk away from the situation for some clarity.
  • Break down the problem into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts one step at a time.

The American Heart Association suggests getting into a habit of turning your negative thoughts into positive thoughts simply by changing your internal monologue.

"I can't do this." > "I'll do the best I can. I’ve got this."

"Everything is going wrong." > "I can handle this if I take one step at a time."

"I hate it when this happens." > "I know how to deal with this; I've done it before."

“I feel helpless and alone.” > “I can reach out and get help if I need it.”

“I can’t believe I screwed up.” > "I'm human, and we all make mistakes. I can fix it."

These are 4 healthy habits that can help kick-start your new year. The key is to make the habits work for you so that eventually the healthy habits become a lifestyle. Want to learn more about health-related facts? Read about 10 health-related facts that might surprise you.