Your heart is a very precious commodity, so it must not be taken for granted.  We make so many sacrifices such as our sleep and "me" time to work and/or take care of our families, therefore there is no reason that we can't make small sacrifices in our daily eating and exercise habits to make a big difference in protecting your heart health since it is our heart that keeps us going each day doing the things we love to do.

1.) Prepare healthy meals and snacks: Taking just 10 minutes each night to prepare a healthy lunch and snacks for the next day, taking 20-30 minutes to prepare a healthy dinner (either the day of or the night before), and getting up a little bit earlier in the morning to eat a healthy breakfast will make a big difference in your heart health for such small sacrifices that you have to make in your daily schedule!  If you don't have time each day, find a block of an hour or two on one day to prep and portion out your snacks for the week, prep some veggies, and marinade some proteins for dinner meals.

2.) Exercise regularly: Exercise doesn't have to take out a chunk of your day, but you will be amazed at how much energy just 30 minutes of walking, jogging, aerobics, dancing, biking, swimming, etc. will give you to use for the rest of your daily activities.  Just 10 minutes here and there count too, just as long as you can add up those 30 minutes for the day.  Get tips in "Cardio on-the-go!" to keep your heart pumping each day!

3.) Take a "time-out" every once in a while: When you are on the go all of the time running errands, going to work, and taking care of others' needs, it can seem impossible to take a "time-out" and still get everything done on your to-do list.  However, if you do take at least 15 minutes a day to take some "me" time to read, have a cup of tea, or just sit and take a breather, you will lower your blood pressure, in turn feeling more refreshed when you do return to your daily grind and will be more productive too!

4.) Get plenty of sleep: Sleep is highly underprioritized in the schedules of many people I know, but without it sleep can affect your energy levels, your mood, and can make you more susceptible to getting sick.  At least 6 hours of sleep a night is important in regulation of our blood pressure, body temperature, digestive system, among other things.  Lack of sleep can cause restlessness, fatigue, irritability, and low immunity.  Sleep is just as important as eating and exercise in maintaining a healthy body!

5.) Stay hydrated: Water is another underestimated part of staying healthy, but without proper hydration, many ailments could reveal themselves.  Dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue, irritability, nausea, among other things since a lack of fluid in your body can constrict your blood vessels to preserve the little bit of fluid it has and in turn can raise blood pressure levels.  It is important to limit caffeinated beverages such as coffee and cola to 1-2 cups a day and make most of your fluid intake water and other non-caffeinated drinks.  In addition, limit alcohol intake to 1 standard serving a day or less for women, 2 servings or less for men, with one standard serving equal to 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine, or 1.5 ounces liquor.  However, it is best to avoid alcohol as much as possible since in the long-term it can slow down fat metabolism and prevent you from reaching your health goals.

Just a few small sacrifices can have BIG positive effects on your heart health and in turn on your overall health. Therefore, if you can make sacrifices to maintain your financial and personal lifestyle, you can certainly make the most important investment of your life in making sacrifices for your health!