These tips are worth a spot on your to-do list.
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After a few weeks of enjoying rich meals and seasonal sweets, the new year marks a fresh start and for many, that means making some healthy changes. Whether you're looking for a little post-holiday reset or some tips to stick to for years to come, you might appreciate some guidance on how, exactly, you can make changes that are easy to stick to. Luckily for those looking to improve their heart health, the American Heart Association (AHA) just shared a roundup of easy-to-achieve goals and resolutions that will help you take care of your ticker in the new year.

"The most important thing is to set realistic expectations and start with small changes that you can amp up over time," said American Heart Association volunteer cardiologist John A. Osborne, M.D, Ph.D., in a press release. "And if you get off track, don't be discouraged or give up. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle takes time, so be kind to yourself and realize that making a new, healthy start doesn't always need to coincide with January 1."

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Even if heart health isn't your top concern in the new year, you can't go wrong staying on top of your cardiovascular wellbeing. Sadly, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And, a recent study found that 40% of adults between the ages of 50 and 64 without a heart-disease diagnosis still had early signs of a condition called atherosclerosis that put them at a greater risk of experiencing a heart attack (read more on that specific study here). You can never start taking care of your ticker too early. Read on for five ways you can stay on top of your heart health in 2022.

1. Take it one step at a time.

You don't need to tackle all of these goals at once. Look for ways to sneak some healthier options onto your plate or find ten minutes in the day to stretch your legs between meetings. Simple changes add up.

2. Aim for lean protein.

We all know that fish and seafood are great sources of protein for your heart, and research shows that cutting back on the amount of animal protein in your routine can be a game-changer for heart health.. In any case, avoiding processed meats and sticking to plant protein, seafood and lean cuts of meat can help you keep your heart in good shape. (This list of heart-healthy foods is a good place to start if you need more info on what foods your heart will appreciate most.)

3. Get physical.

"Balance food and calorie intake with physical activity to maintain a healthy weight," the AHA recommends. As long as you find a version of exercise that you enjoy, it doesn't matter what it is—though research suggests that both strength training and high-intensity interval training are both excellent ways to protect your heart. Going for an afternoon walk has plenty of benefits too, so those who prefer something low-impact are in good shape.

4. Give yourself a break.

Stress can be tough on the heart. Whether you have a pet whose presence helps you relax or a walking path that helps you clear your head, giving yourself time to enjoy the things that relax you can make a big difference. Try meditation if you're looking for a calming activity to add to your routine.

5. Make a plan.

You don't have to meal prep every week if that's not your style—but you should think about meals and snacks ahead of time if you want to set yourself up for success, the AHA says. When you're making your next big grocery list, think about adding heart-healthy items like anti-inflammatory foods and whole grains to your cart. Or, if you'd like to start meal planning for the week but need some inspiration, look to simple ideas like this meal plan for beginners.

Bottom Line

You don't have to center healthy changes around a new year's resolution this year. Instead, focus on simple, manageable goals that you can take on day by day. Adding heart-healthy ingredients to your meals and taking care of yourself the best you can are both simple, effective ways to stay healthy in the new year.