The start of the year can feel like a time of endless possibilities — when you decide you’ll finally clean out your closet, find love, or shed those stubborn 10 pounds. The reality, of course, is that realistic New Year’s resolutions are about setting priorities, not trying to fix everything at once.
This year, consider prioritizing your heart health. It might not be as trendy or flashy as other New Year’s resolutions, but there are plenty of reasons to do so. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, men, and nearly every racial and ethnic group in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And the factors that often contribute to heart disease — like high blood pressure, increased blood lipid (cholesterol and triglyceride) levels, and prediabetes or type 2 diabetes — can begin long before you’re diagnosed with any heart condition or experience a cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke.
When it comes to prioritizing heart health, “Some people are really shocked into action,” says Helga Van Herle, MD, a cardiologist and associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. That could happen, she says, following a diagnosis of heart disease or being prescribed a cholesterol-lowering medication.
But you may be able to avoid getting to that point by taking action now — and nudging your lifestyle in a heart-healthy direction. “Some of the basic stuff that rings true is actually the most important” when it comes to heart health, says Evan Shalen, MD, a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.