Simple Steps for the Whole Family to be Heart Healthy


Making time for a heart-healthy lifestyle can seem overwhelming. But the good news is that making a few small simple lifestyle changes can lead to heart-healthy habits that require little thought or effort.

No Time for Exercise? Here Are 7 Easy Ways to Move More!


Too busy to add more exercise to your busy schedule? When you can’t seem to make time for a full workout, try these no-sweat ways to simply move more. 

Body Mass Index In Adults (BMI Calculator for Adults)

The benefits of maintaining a healthy weight go far beyond improved energy and smaller clothing sizes. By losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, you are also likely to enjoy these quality-of-life factors too.

  • Fewer joint and muscle pains
  • More energy and greater ability to join in desired activities
  • Better regulation of bodily fluids and blood pressure
  • Reduced burden on your heart and circulatory system
  • Better sleep patterns
  • Reductions in blood triglycerides, blood glucose, and risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Reduced risk for heart disease and certain cancers

BMI is an indicator of the amount of body fat for most people. It is used as a screening tool to identify whether an adult is at a healthy weight. Find your BMI and what it means with our handy BMI Calculator. A separate BMI Percentile Calculator should be used for children and teens that takes a child’s age and gender into consideration.

  • BMI stands for Body Mass Index
    This is a numerical value of your weight in relation to your height. A BMI between 18.5 and 25 kg/m² indicates a normal weight. A BMI of less than 18.5 kg/m² is considered underweight. A BMI between 25 kg/m² and 29.9 kg/m² is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 kg/m² or higher is considered obese.
  • Excess weight increases the heart’s work.
    It also raises blood pressure and blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It can make diabetes more likely to develop, too. Lifestyle changes that help you maintain a 3-5% weight loss are likely to result in clinically meaningful improvements in blood glucose, triglycerides, and risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Greater weight loss can even help reduce BP and improve blood cholesterol.
  • To calculate your BMI – Click here!

Identifying Your Fitness Goals


You’ve made the decision to start a physical activity program — the first major step toward becoming more active. But what’s next?

Although physical activity is individualized and everyone’s goals are different, adults benefit most from at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. But everyone should answer the following questions before starting a routine.

1. How fit are you now?

Your physical activity regimen will vary widely based on your current fitness level. Determine your starting point by assessing and recording your first fitness scores when you begin your program. If you continue to do this periodically, you’ll be able to track your progress.

To assess your aerobic and muscular fitness, flexibility and body composition, you should record:

  • Your pulse rate before and immediately after walking one mile (1.6 kilometers);
  • How long it takes to walk one mile;
  • How many push-ups you can do in one set;
  • How far you can reach forward while seated on the floor with your legs in front of you; (are your legs straight here and are you reaching toward your feet?)
  • Your waist circumference (do you mean immediately above the hipbones?) at the level of your hipbones;
  • Your body mass index, which you can easily find by using our BMI calculator for adults. 

2. Do you have any health conditions?
If you have a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, you should talk to your doctor before beginning a new activity program. In general, healthy men and women who plan prudent increases in their weekly physical activity do not need to consult a healthcare provider before becoming active.

3. What activities do you enjoy?
Research shows people are more likely to continue a fitness program they enjoy. If you have a blast on the dance floor, you might want to consider an aerobics class that includes dance moves. If you enjoy being around others, a gym membership or walking club might be a good bet. If you prefer to exercise alone, try workout DVDs and simple equipment you can use at home.

4. How much are you willing to pay for fitness?
When choosing your fitness options, make sure they also fit your budget. If gym memberships and home exercise equipment are too pricey, consider cheaper options for getting in shape. Your nearby YMCA or recreation department may offer discounted fitness classes to local residents.

Next Step: Goal setting
Using the answers to the above questions as a guide, you are now ready to set your goals.

  • General Goal – If you are just starting out, a simple, straightforward goal could be to work toward meeting AHA recommendations for physical activity. Current guidelines recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity or a combination of the two, plus two days of strength training.
  • Specific Goal – If you have something more specific in mind, such as running a 5K race or completing a triathlon, create a plan on how you plan to reach that goal. Consider joining a local running club or triathlon group to get help with a training plan that will increase your stamina and strengthen your resolve.
  • Weight-Loss Goal – If the goal of your physical activity program is to lose weight, you may want to speak to your doctor to determine a healthy amount to lose each week. Along with appropriate calorie intake, physical activity is an important part of losing weight and keeping it off. The amount of physical activity needed achieve a healthy weight varies greatly from person to person. 

You may want to ask what types and amounts of physical activity are recommended to reach your goal. 

Clear goals can help motivate you when you’re not in the mood to get moving. Tracking your progress can also help you stick with the program. 

Breaking Down Barriers to Fitness


Most of us are familiar with the most common barrier to a regular physical activity routine — the lack of time. Work, family obligations and other realities of daily life often get in the way of our best intentions to be more active. There are many additional barriers that vary by the person and life circumstance.

If you’re committed to a physical activity program and setting goals for yourself, it’s helpful to first identify your personal barriers. By troubleshooting and developing tactics in advance, you’ll have better success overcoming them. 


Here are some of the more common barriers and solutions for overcoming them:

  • Barrier: Lack of time
    • Solutions: Monitor your activities for one week and identify at least three, 30-minute slots you could use for physical activity. Select activities that you can fit into your home or work routine so you’re not wasting time on transportation to another venue to accomplish them. Walking in your neighborhood, climbing stairs at your office or exercising while you watch TV are all good options.
  • Barrier: Friends and family don’t share your interest in physical activity
    • Solutions: Explain your fitness and/or health improvement goals to friends and family and ask for their support. Invite friends to participate in physical activity with you. Join a local YMCA or walking club to find people with similar goals to offer support.
  • Barrier: Lack of motivation and/or energy
    • Solutions: Plan ahead. Schedule physical activity for specific times/days and “check” it off your list or calendar each time you complete it. Determine what time of day you feel more energetic and try to fit activity into that time frame. Join an exercise group or class and seek others in the group to help motivate you and keep you accountable to attending.
  • Barrier: Lack of resources/equipment
    • Solutions: Select activities that require minimal facilities or equipment, such as walking, jogging, jumping rope or calisthenics. Identify inexpensive, convenient resources in your community, such as parks and recreation programs, worksite wellness groups, walking clubs, etc.
  • Barrier: Family caregiving obligations
    • Solutions: Exercise with your kids — go for a walk together, play tag or other running games, get an aerobic dance or exercise tape for kids. You can spend time together, occupy the kids and ensure they’re getting the daily physical activity they need to stay healthy. If you have a specific class you like to attend, try alternating babysitting time with a neighbor.
  • Barrier: Frequent work or leisure travel
    • Solutions: Join a YMCA or YWCA and ask about reciprocal memberships that allow access to facilities in other cities. Pack a jump rope and resistance bands in your luggage. Book hotels that have a pool and/or fitness rooms.

Daily Tips to Help Keep Your Family Active

How can you help your family be more physically active and get enough exercise to stay healthy? Get up and move more as part of your everyday routine with our easy tips and hacks. Every April, we celebrate Move More Month to encourage everyone to get active for better health.

The focus of the month is how simple daily efforts and habits can infuse more activity into your life without taking up a lot of time you don’t have!

Here are our top 30 tips to help you and your family be more active.

  1. Just move more! There are lots of fun and easy ways to build more activity into your everyday routine, even if you’re not a gym hero.
  2. Park and go. How many times have you circled the parking lot to find that “rock star” spot? Spare yourself the stress by parking farther away (or even in a remote lot) and walking the rest of the way to your destination.
  3. Wear what you’ve got. You don’t need special clothing to simply get out and walk. A comfortable, supportive pair of shoes and a few basics will keep you ready to go.
  4. Work out at work. Add some healthy activity to your work day. Take 10-minute walking breaks, schedule walking meetings when possible, do some yoga or stretching during downtime, or walk to a nearby restaurant for lunch instead of driving.
  5. Schedule it. Having trouble making time for physical activity? Set an alarm on your phone or schedule it on your calendar – and treat it like any other important appointment.
  6. Be sweet to your feet. Keep your feet happy (along with your knees and legs) so you can move more without discomfort.
  7. Take the stairs. but it doesn’t up your activity level. Take the stairs instead, even if only for a floor or two. You may huff and puff at first, but over time, your body will thank you.
  8. Set a goal. Having a commitment or goal, like being active for at least 150 minutes each week, will help you stay on track. Share it with others to keep yourself accountable. If you’re the competitive type, challenge friends, family or coworkers and see who can consistently meet their goals over time.
  9. Go mobile. Catching up on phone calls? Walk your talk – in your neighborhood, on a treadmill or around your workplace. If you use a headset or earbuds make sure you can still hear traffic.
  10. Pick up the pace. When walking, running or cycling, increase your speed from leisurely to brisk or choose a route with more hills or inclines. Or alternate moderate and vigorous intensity. You’ll get a more intense workout in the same amount of time.
  11. Be a sport. Team and individual sports can be a fun way to meet your activity goals. Join a recreation center or league in your community, or round up some friends or coworkers for an informal game.
  12. Buddy up. Find a physical activity accountability partner. Your spouse or a coworker who always holds you to your deadlines can also help you reach your fitness goals.
  13. Fitness first. Shake up your family’s after-school/after-work routine. Join your kids for a bike ride or shoot some hoops before starting on homework and chores. You’ll all feel better and think better!
  14. Timing is everything. If you find you’re better at sleeping in than making it to that morning workout, try getting active at a different time of day.
  15. Just dance. Clear some space, put on some music, and take a dance break! It can re-energize a work meeting, study session, lazy Sunday or game night. Let each person take a turn as DJ so everyone’s favorites get played.
  16. Get your garden on! Gardening, lawn mowing and yard work are a great way to get active outdoors. No yard? No problem. Try container gardening or a local community garden.
  17. Put the screens on hold. Instead of heading right for the TV or game console after dinner, make that family activity time. Take a walk, practice a sport, or play a game of tag or hide-and-seek.
  18. Be an active parent. Experts say that what kids want more than anything else is time with their parents. To give them that, don’t just send them out to play — go play with them!
  19. Get a kinder, gentler workout. Try mindful movement like yoga, tai chi or qi gong. These gentle mind-body practices may leave you less stressed and can be done just about anywhere.
  20. Stress is no excuse to skip your workout. Regular physical activity can help you manage stress, sleep better and have more energy.
  21. Tune into fitness during TV time. Walk or jog in place or on a treadmill, lift weights, or do yoga while you watch your favorite shows. Break up a TV binge with a 10-minute activity session between episodes. Or challenge the kids to see who can do the most burpees, pushups or jumping jacks during commercial breaks.
  22. Do what you love. Find activities that fit your personality and motivate you to stick with them. If you’re a social person, try a group dance class, a kickball team or walking with a group of friends. If you prefer time alone, yoga or running might be a better fit for you.
  23. Make active chore cards. Let each family member draw a card each day with a different active task that needs to be done. Cleaning up after dinner, walking the dog, taking the trash out, folding laundry and unloading the dishwasher are all good ways to get your family up off the couch – and get the chores done.
  24. Stay active when you travel. Don’t take a vacation from fitness. Instead of a bus tour, see the sights by walking or bicycling. If you’ll be spending a lot of time in an airport, walk while you wait! Throw a jump rope or resistance band in your suitcase. And take advantage of the hotel fitness center or swimming pool.
  25. Get active for a cause. If you live to help others, active community events like the Heart Walk are a great way to do something healthy while giving back. Some even offer fitness training, team opportunities and prizes!
  26. Change up date night. An evening out with your spouse or bestie doesn’t have to mean dinner and a movie. Keep a list of activities that would be fun to do together, like walking, bowling, miniature golf, dancing, indoor rock climbing, or hula hooping! Get creative – the possibilities are endless.
  27. Fit in walking. Being more active doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. You can walk just about anytime, anywhere, and every 10-minute session counts toward your goal of at least 150 minutes per week.
  28. Warm up to warming up. A proper warm-up (and cool-down) can help you improve flexibility and avoid injury. You’ll feel better after every workout and be more likely to stick with it.
  29. It’s a dog’s life. A dog can be a great walking or running companion. If you don’t have one of your own you could volunteer at a local shelter, help out a neighbor who is too busy to walk their dog, or start a dog-walking service!
  30. Do it anyway. Didn’t make it to the gym before it closed? Create your own circuit workout at home! No equipment needed, just a little willpower and creativity.

Know Your Target Heart Rates for Exercise, Losing Weight and Health


What should your heart rate be when working out, and how can you keep track of it? Our simple chart will help keep you in the target training zone, whether you want to lose weight or just maximize your workout. Find out what normal resting and maximum heart rates are for your age and how exercise intensity and other factors affect heart rate.


How to Upgrade Your Morning Routine


A good start to a productive, successful day depends on your morning habits and rituals. Here’s how to make your morning routine healthy, inspiring, and best of all, easy — using triggers and habit chaining to kick-start an amazing day.




Older women should keep eating their veggies – possibly one kind in particular


A new study reinforces the idea that it’s never too late to start eating your veggies – especially ones like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale.

Australian researchers who examined nearly 1,000 women ages 70 and older found that so-called cruciferous vegetables may be particularly helpful in lowering the risk for heart disease.

“There is a wealth of evidence linking diets high in vegetables with lower risk of heart disease and stroke,” said the study’s lead researcher Lauren Blekkenhorst, of the School of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Western Australia in Perth. “However, there is little evidence on specific types of vegetables with subclinical measures of atherosclerosis, the major underlying cause of most heart attacks and strokes.”

The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, examined the association between thickness of women’s neck arteries and severity of plaque buildup within them (atherosclerosis) with total vegetable intake as well as intake of specific vegetables.

Researchers found that independent of lifestyle and cardiovascular risk factors, women who ate more vegetables – cruciferous vegetables in particular – had healthier carotid arteries.

Researchers aren’t entirely sure what gives these cruciferous vegetables more of a protective effect than other vegetables, but they hypothesize it is because cruciferous vegetables are packed with nutrients and phytochemicals but are low in energy.

One outside expert, however, cautioned that it was too early to definitively say cruciferous vegetables are the most beneficial.

“The message should not be that just adding cruciferous vegetables to any diet will decrease heart disease risk,” said Alice H. Lichtenstein, senior scientist and director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.

Rather, eating all kinds of vegetables can help decrease heart disease risk, she said. “These data add additional strength to what we have been encouraging – consume a diet rich in vegetables for the best health outcomes.”

Blekkenhorst said she focused the study on older women because risk factors for vascular disease are different in men and women, and because cardiovascular disease is often thought of as a “male” disease, leading to undertesting and undertreatment in older women.

The researchers are now exploring whether there are similar health benefits in older Australian men, as well as the different phytochemicals and nutrients in cruciferous vegetables that might explain the added advantage.

Blekkenhorst said that as the population ages and life expectancy increases, it’s important to determine how dietary choices around vegetable intake may affect overall vascular health and survival.

Rethink Your Drink; Reducing Sugary Drinks in Your Diet

 Take a minute and think about what you drink in a typical day. Unless you are a true water lover, you may be getting some extra, unneeded calories through sodas, ice teas, energy and coffee drinks.

Some research suggests that when you drink calories, you aren’t as satisfied compared to eating the same amount of calories in solid food.


So, here are tips on how to switch to healthier drinks that can quench your thirst and still taste good!

  • Read those ingredients – Beverages, like energy drinks, can be deceiving because they advertise that they are healthy but usually are loaded with calories and sugar. Common forms of added sugars are sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, corn syrups, concentrated fruit juice and honey. Also, look at the label carefully because one container may be considered more than one serving, which can double or triple your sugar consumption.
  • Cut back slowly – If you have sugary drinks like sodas and sweetened teas on a regular basis, start cutting back now. Replace those drinks with the water suggestions next.
  • Work up to water – We often hear we should drink water every day, but that can seem like a challenge if you aren’t a big fan. Here’s how to crave more water:
    • Carry a refillable water bottle or have a permanent glass at your office desk.
    • Add slices of oranges, lemons or even cucumbers for an added boost of flavor.
    • Try seltzers or sparking water with a splash of 100% fruit juice.
  • Join the juicing trend –You may have seen infomercials for juicers or read articles about the benefits of making and drinking your own fruit and vegetable juices. These homemade juices can be OK – up to a point. First, it’s always better to eat produce instead of drinking it as you get fiber from the skin and pulp that can be strained out by a juicer. It’s easy for the calories in fruit juice to add up without even noticing.
  • Sip a smoothie – When you are in the mood for a milkshake or want an afternoon snack, keep on the heart healthy track with a budget-friendly homemade fruit smoothie! Blend ½ cup frozen fruit with no added sugars, ½ cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt with no added sugars and ½ cup low-fat milk. 

If you don’t have a blender, mix small pieces of fresh fruit with yogurt and milk, then freeze for an hour. Experiment with different fruit combinations like mango-pineapple or strawberry-blueberry.


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