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You may be hearing a lot on the news lately about the increase in cardiovascular disease in America. Many factors attribute to this increase, from genetics to diet and lifestyle. If you are like many others, you want to avoid any type of heart related problems.

You want to eat right, you want to exercise, and you want to live a long healthy life. Starting this journey to better heart health can feel overwhelming, however. Some don’t know where to begin or how to implement the enormous amount of information provided online.

Which diet do you choose? What exercise is the best? Should you eat low fat, high fat, vegetarian, or a mixture of all the above? Should you fast intermittingly, take weight loss medication, exercise with weights or focus on cardio? It’s true, losing weight can be extremely overwhelming.

With varying opinions by experts and limited resources, many people often give up, frustrated.

This does not have to be the case, however. You can be successful at changing your less healthy habits into positive life changes. You can create a heart healthy diet plan and reap the many rewards it has to offer. Just follow the steps below to get you started.

Undergoing Regular Heart Health Screenings

Before you begin any new plan, it’s important to have your heart tested. Heart health screenings are terrific ways to get to know your body better, which is key in making lifelong changes. You need to be able to listen to your body’s needs. This helps you adjust when needed.

Heart screenings can help with detection of any medical issues, genetic issues or lifestyle issues that may be contributing to your inability to lose weight.

A few screening tests that are non-invasive but very important include blood pressure. If your blood pressure is below 120/80, you are on the right track for avoiding coronary issues. However, if it is consistently higher than that, you may be more at risk.

Cholesterol is another screening, usually through blood work, that can tell if your levels are too high, too low or just right. Blood glucose is a test that lets your doctor know if you are at risk for diabetes. Some find their glucose levels are high, but not considered diabetic. This is known as being pre-diabetic, a point that can still be reversed with lifestyle changes.

Medications can also be used to treat these problems.

Resetting, Rebooting Your Metabolism

It would be nice if all you had to do was quit eating certain foods to improve your metabolism. We know that you should avoid sugar and flour, eat more raw vegetables, and use only health fats and oils when cooking.

While the foods you eat are important, there are other factors to help rev up your metabolism.

Taking nutrients that boost your energy is a great way to increase metabolism. Supplements filled with vitamins and nutrients can lower inflammation while increasing metabolism.

Getting good sleep may not sound like it can affect metabolism, but it does. When you lack good sleep, you may find yourself eating more unhealthy foods and feeling tired more. Poor sleep encourages inflammation in the body, hinders our immune systems, and can’t find stress or the hormone cortisol that is released when we are stressed. All of this can lead to unwanted weight gain.

And of course, move more. With each increase in movement and exercise, you are increasing the power of your heart.

Eating Fat-Fighting Foods

Yes, there are actual foods that can burn fat. That doesn’t mean only eat these foods and eat them in large amounts.  It does mean, however, to start adding these treats into your diet as soon as possible. Make small substitutions over time so you don’t feel as if you are giving up everything you love and later feel resentment.

Foods found to fight fat include yogurt, quinoa, hot peppers, grapefruit, watermelon and apples. Other foods are grapes, berries, beans and all raw vegetables. Sweet potatoes, eggs and other lean meats like chicken and fish can help you drop the weight.

You also must watch the calories you absorb through drinks. Sodas and milkshakes should be avoided. However, you can substitute with skim milk, smoothies, coffee and green tea.

Preparing, Planning, and Following Through

When you are not prepared, it’s easier to slip up and allow yourself to stray from your heart healthy lifestyle. For instance, if you do not pack a lunch to take to work, you are more likely to eat fast food.

Take the time to create a meal plan, fix the meals ahead of time, and stick to it. Use these same principals for increasing exercise. Plan the activities you will do each week. Then mark each activity off your list once completed. You will be able to see your successes each day and feel the rewards.

Other tasks you can add to your preparation, planning and follow through is tracking the most important heart healthy numbers. Set daily goals for calories, steps, and blood pressure. Tracking means writing it down. Write down how many calories you eat in a day. Also track how many steps you take in a day.

Take your blood pressure throughout the day to see when it is high or low or just right. This can help you adjust your daily routine where needed.

Working in Partnership With Your Doctor(s)

You are not expected to change your lifestyle overnight. You are not expected to change your lifestyle all by yourself. Physicians are great resources when it comes to weight loss. They know everything about your physical and mental health.

They know your medical background, from family history of weight problems to the type of blood you have. Doctors know which type of weight loss program would work best for you. And because accountability is important with any heart healthy diet plan, meeting regularly with your doctor can keep you focused and on track.

You do not have to wait any longer. You can begin your heart healthy journey today.