Heart health resolutions you can stick to

At the start of each new year, many of us make resolutions to improve our health and wellbeing. But while our intentions may well be good, without the right support and motivation those resolutions are often broken – sometimes even before the first week of the New Year has played out.

If you’re making or have already made resolutions to keep your heart healthy, Heart Research UK has some advice that may help. The charity is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017, and has started with a campaign called Give Up, Take Up to give your heart a boost. And all you have to do is give up an unhealthy habit for 50 days and at the same time take up a new heart-healthy hobby.

Making a commitment to continue your resolution for 50 days, while also learning a new skill and asking friends and family to support and sponsor you, is the secret to success, the charity claims. Here are a few examples:

Give up smoking and take up knitting Many people make the resolution at the start of a New Year to give up smoking. But taking up knitting or crochet at the same time could increase your chances of success, says Heart Research UK.

Within 50 tobacco-free days your body will experience some major changes as it rids itself of nicotine.  Your circulation, smell and taste will improve, breathing will become easier and you may also notice an improvement in your energy levels. And when you get the urge to light up, grab your knitting needles or crochet hook instead. The charity claims there’s evidence to suggest knitting and crochet may help lower heart rates, blood pressure and stress, as they keep your hands busy and distract you from the need to hold a cigarette.

Give up alcohol and fizzy drinks and take up drinking more water Give up alcohol and fizzy drinks for 50 days and you might find it easier to maintain a healthy body weight.

“Alcohol and fizzy drinks contain excess calories so over consumption can lead to weight gain,” says Lucy Chesson, Heart Research UK’s lifestyle officer. “Heavy alcohol drinking also makes the muscles of the heart weaker, so it can’t do its job efficiently and may lead to heart failure.”

Drinking six to eight glasses of water and pure unsweetened fruit juice a day will give your heart and skin a boost. To make it more appealing add fruit slices to water, soda water to fresh fruit juice or slices of lemon and lime to low-calorie tonic water.

Give up being inactive and take up a sporting challenge Inactivity is a leading cause of heart disease and too many people fail to achieve the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, claims the charity.

Excessive sitting (at work or at home) is also associated with lower energy expenditure and poor glucose control, which may increase your risk of weight gain and Type 2 diabetes, even if you pound the pavements or the treadmill in the gym each evening.  Regularly working through lunch may also have an impact on your mental health and can lead to afternoon slumps in mood and productivity.

“There are many ways people can get active to improve their heart health and mental wellbeing too,” says Lucy. “Heart Research UK offers many take-up challenges – use your lunch break to swim the distance of the channel, walk a marathon or even complete a triathlon.”

Give up sweets and commit to eating your Five A Day Whenever you crave a sweet treat, try having a piece of fruit instead. And remember, it’s not just fresh fruit and veg that count towards your Five A Day – you can eat dried, tinned and frozen fruit and veg too.

Read more about Heart Research UK’s Give Up Take Up challenge here.

If you’re giving up smoking this year, your Careway pharmacist has plenty of advice and support to offer you. Find your nearest participating Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.