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Budget-Friendly Tips for Better Heart Health

Kingman Regional Medical Center offers a rehabilitation program to help people who have had a heart attack, heart surgery, or other cardiac event or procedure (angioplasty, stent, etc.). (Adobe Image)

Kingman Regional Medical Center offers a rehabilitation program to help people who have had a heart attack, heart surgery, or other cardiac event or procedure (angioplasty, stent, etc.). (Adobe Image)

February marks American Heart Month, a great time to commit to a healthy lifestyle and make small changes that can lead to a lifetime of better health.

Most of us know the basics of heart health – eat healthy and exercise. However, budget concerns can sometimes create a barrier. The good news is that there are many ways to greatly improve your health, which cost little more than a change of heart.

Cost saving tips for becoming more active One of the most rewarding decisions you can make is to become more active. The more you move, the healthier you become. Contrary to popular belief, studies show that you do not need a regimented or vigorous exercise program to benefit from physical activity. Instead, small changes that increase daily physical activity will help reduce your risk of heart disease and contribute to a better quality of life. No matter your age or health status, it’s never too late to add more physical activity to your daily routine.

Your body needs at least 30 minutes of moderateintensity physical activity every day. According to recent scientific studies, those 30-minutes of activity can be accumulated throughout your day. Examples include walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, walking instead of driving short distances, or doing calisthenics. Additionally, gardening, housework, raking leaves, dancing, and playing actively with children can contribute to the 30 minute per-day total.

A good rule of thumb is to do as much activity for as long as you can, whenever you can. Every physical activity you engage in, no matter how brief, will result in some benefit to your health. And, of course, the more frequent the activity, the greater the benefit.

Once you add more physical activity in your daily life, chances are, you’ll feel like doing more. As you build your endurance, you may choose to participate in more vigorous activities, such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling for at least 30 minutes daily.

Cost saving tips for a healthier diet Many of us think that it costs more to eat healthy. But with a little planning, the following tips can help stretch your food budget, while greatly improving your heart health.

• Substitute unhealthy snacks with fresh fruits and vegetables. One of the most important diet changes you can make is to eat more fruits and vegetables. Your body needs at least five servings per day to help prevent heart disease. One way to add more fruit and vegetables to your diet is to start out in the produce section at the grocery store and avoid the aisles with expensive convenience foods, chips, candy and cookies.

• Buy frozen produce. Unfortunately, fresh produce can cost more because it easily goes to waste. If you’re on a tight budget, you can save money by buying frozen fruits and vegetables, which are often available in large economical packages. The nutritional value of frozen produce can actually be better than fresh because it is usually harvested at the height of the growing season and flash-frozen to preserve the nutrients.

• Eat whole grains. Given the choice between whole grains and refined grains, go with whole. You can start by making a simple change from white bread to wheat bread. Whole-grain foods are loaded with fiber, which helps you feel full on less food. Refined grains (e.g., white fl our, white rice, etc.) are full of “emptycalories” and tend to make us overeat to feel satisfied. Although some whole grain foods may cost a bit more per serving, you tend to eat fewer servings and actually save on your overall food budget.

• Eat more beans. Beans are one of the healthiest and least expensive foods you can eat. Loaded with protein, potassium, folic acid, magnesium, and fiber, beans are great for lowering both your cholesterol and blood pressure. Beans are also low on the glycemic index, which can help keep your blood sugar steady. With their high protein content, either canned or dried beans can be substituted for meat in many meals, saving you even more money.

• Roast a whole chicken or turkey. Poultry is very lean and an excellent source of protein. It is also very inexpensive when you purchase a whole chicken or turkey. Rather than spending high prices on processed lunch meats (which are loaded with sodium nitrate), roast a whole turkey or chicken once a month then slice, bag, and freeze the leftovers for sandwiches, casseroles, and other meals throughout the month.

• Drink more water. Water is the most important substance in your diet. Often when you feel hungry, your body is actually thirsty. So when you feel those hunger pangs, drink a glass or two of water before getting something to eat. You’ll probably feel more satisfied and need less food.

• Pay attention to portions. We often spend more on food just by eating more than we need. Rather than counting calories, try the plate method for measuring the amount of food you need. Your protein source (meat, poultry, fish, etc.) should take up about one-quarter of your plate, and any starchy foods like potatoes, rice, or pasta should take up the other quarter. A full half of your plate should include vegetables. Another way to limit the amount you eat is to start using your salad plates as your dinner plates. Using a smaller plate helps you get used to eating smaller portions.

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