February blends two great American traditions, the Super Bowl and American Heart Month. This makes February the perfect time to create a game plan for your heart, so come spring time you are ready to tackle your goals. To start, you have to lay out the members of your team. While numerous people can help you on your path to heart health, the most important player is YOU. Surround yourself with strong supporting cast including experienced coaches (your doctor and other health care providers) and committed team members (your family, friends, and support network) to ensure victory.
Here are the keys to success:
#1 Do Some Scouting
You need to know your numbers including your cholesterol, blood pressure, and body weight among others. Ask your relatives about family history of heart disease. If you take medications, do you know what they are for and are you taking them as prescribed? Are you exercising regularly, and what exercise modalities are available to you? Where do you usually eat your meals, who prepares them, and what are your snacking habits?
#2 Make the Plan
Start with the end in mind. What are your goals (weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, exercise per week, dietary changes?) Be specific in your goal setting and the plan to achieve them. For example, if you plan to exercise more, what days and times will you do so, what type of exercise will you engage in, and for how long? If you are going to eat better, what meals will you change, what will you reduce and what will you incorporate? Your coaches (doctor and nutritionist) can help create exercise and dietary prescriptions. Modern teams embrace technology, and tracking your lifestyle habits with apps and other tools can make a real difference.
#3 Post-Game Analysis
Did you get the big win and achieve your goals, or did you come up short? What went right with your plan and what went wrong? What can you do differently to prepare for the next game? Most importantly, if you did not achieve all of your goals, do not despair as one game does not make or break the entire season.
As Vince Lombardi once said "winning is a habit." So is heart health. Create your game plan, stick to it, and enjoy the new healthy you.
Amit Khera, M.D., directs UT Southwestern’s Preventive Cardiology Program, which aims to prevent coronary artery disease and its complications. He trained at Harvard Medical School and UT Southwestern, and he is an expert in cardiac risk assessment and risk factor modifications.