Published on February 22, 2022

Cardiovascular Health: Small workday changes lead to big results

February is American Heart Month, a good time to check in on how your work habits may not only be affecting your waistline, but also your cardiovascular (heart) health.

Salad Lunch at desk

Many Americans are still working from home due to the pandemic. Some are eating healthier as they prepare meals at home, while others have created unhealthy habits with 24/7 access to the fridge and pantry.

Do you have trouble resisting the urge to grab “just a handful” of chips between those video calls? Do you skip lunch and then binge on junk food mid-afternoon? One of the most effective techniques to curb cravings and avoid impulse eating is to plan your food for the day.

Plan ahead and control portion size

Typically, dinner is what comes to mind when someone thinks of meal planning. Yet it is equally important to consider all your meals, especially lunch and snacks when mid-day hunger sets in. Planning your meals applies to those working remotely just as much as those going into an office—where not planning can lead to poor choices of fast food, grabbing something from a vending machine, or skipping meals and binging later. Jennifer Pederson, Registered Dietitian, Ridgeview, suggests the following tips for planning your meals.

  1. Get in the habit of prepping lunches on Sundays. This can be healthy salads or leftovers.
  2. Portion leftovers right after you eat dinner. This takes the guesswork out of “what’s for lunch” and helps control your portion size.
  3. Avoid eating processed or pre-packaged foods. They’re convenient in a pinch, but even those labeled as healthy can be loaded with sodium. Excess sodium contributes to high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
  4. Choosing fresh, whole foods and preparing your own meals can cut down on sodium and help you know exactly what you are putting into your body.

Remember to move your body

If you’re sitting at a desk, take a brief walk around your house or office every hour or two, take the stairs when possible and park further away in the parking lot. The more aware you are of making these small changes, the greater the impact they will have on improving your heart health.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. If that seems high for you, work toward a smaller goal and increase each week. Aim for half of those minutes to be achieved on the weekend or on your days off, creating a more attainable goal for workdays.

An estimated 80 percent of heart disease and stroke are preventable through lifestyle changes according to the AHA. These small changes to your day—meal planning, portion control, reducing sodium and staying active, can significantly benefit your cardiovascular health.

If you have concerns about your heart health, schedule a Calcium Heart Screening. This simple, non-invasive procedure uses advanced technology to create a picture of your heart's arteries and measures the calcium deposits within them.