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4 Money Blunders That Could Leave You Poorer

January 20th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

A “not-to-do” list for the new year & years to follow.

shutterstock_43188082How are your money habits? Are you getting ahead financially, or does it feel like you are running in place?

It may come down to behavior. Some financial behaviors promote wealth creation, while others lead to frustration. Certainly other factors come into play when determining a household’s financial situation, but behavior and attitudes toward money rank pretty high on the list.

How many households are focusing on the fundamentals? Late in 2014, the Denver-based National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) surveyed 2,000 adults from the 10 largest U.S. metro areas and found that 64% wanted to make at least one financial resolution for 2015. The top three financial goals for the new year: building retirement savings, setting a budget, and creating a plan to pay off debt.1

All well and good, but the respondents didn’t feel so good about their financial situations. About one-third of them said the quality of their financial life was “worse than they expected it to be.” In fact, 48% told NEFE they were living paycheck-to-paycheck and 63% reported facing a sudden and major expense last year.1

Fate and lackluster wage growth aside, good money habits might help to reduce those percentages in 2015. There are certain habits that tend to improve household finances, and other habits that tend to harm them. As a cautionary note for 2015, here is a “not-to-do” list – a list of key money blunders that could make you much poorer if repeated over time.

Money Blunder #1: Spend every dollar that comes through your hands. Maybe we should ban the phrase “disposable income.” Too many households are disposing of money that they could save or invest. Or, they are spending money that they don’t actually have (through credit cards).

You have to have creature comforts, and you can’t live on pocket change. Even so, you can vow to put aside a certain number of dollars per month to spend on something really important: YOU. That 24-hour sale where everything is 50% off? It probably isn’t a “once in a lifetime” event; for all you know, it may happen again next weekend. It is nothing special compared to your future.

Money Blunder #2: Pay others before you pay yourself. Our economy is consumer-driven and service-oriented. Every day brings us chances to take on additional consumer debt. That works against wealth. How many bills do you pay a month, and how much money is left when you are done? Less debt equals more money to pay yourself with – money that you can save or invest on behalf of your future and your dreams and priorities.

Money Blunder #3: Don’t save anything. Paying yourself first also means building an emergency fund and a strong cash position. With the middle class making very little economic progress in this generation (at least based on wages versus inflation), this may seem hard to accomplish. It may very well be, but it will be even harder to face an unexpected financial burden with minimal cash on hand.

The U.S. personal savings rate has averaged about 5% recently. Not great, but better than the low of 2.6% measured in 2007. Saving 5% of your disposable income may seem like a challenge, but the challenge is relative: the personal savings rate in China is 50%.2

Money Blunder #4: Invest impulsively. Buying what’s hot, chasing the return, investing in what you don’t fully understand – these are all variations of the same bad habit, which is investing emotionally and trying to time the market. The impulse is to “make money,” with too little attention paid to diversification, risk tolerance and other critical factors along the way. Money may be made, but it may not be retained.

Make 2015 the year of good money habits. You may be doing all the right things right now and if so, you may be making financial strides. If you find yourself doing things that are halting your financial progress, remember the old saying: change is good. A change in financial behavior may be rewarding.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – denverpost.com/smart/ci_27275294/financial-resolutions-2015-four-ways-help-yourself-keep [1/7/15]
2 – tennessean.com/story/money/2014/12/31/tips-getting-financially-fit/21119049/ [12/31/14]

What’s Your Financial Health Score?

January 20th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Financial News

Can a 5-question test predict how wealthy you will become?

65460772In the future, will you become wealthier or poorer? Who knows, right? It seems like you would need a crystal ball to really answer that question given life’s up and downs. What if the answer is right in front of you? What if you can determine it from your present financial behaviors?

Two economists present a brief questionnaire – and an audacious claim. Last month, the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis published an article titled “Five Simple Questions That Reveal Your Financial Health and Wealth.” The authors, William Emmons and Bryan Noeth, argue that your answers to these questions can effectively predict your financial future.1,2

Q: Did you save any money last year?

Q: Did you miss any loan or mortgage payments in the past year?

Q: Did you have a balance on your credit card after the last payment was due?

Q: Do liquid assets make up at least 10% of the value of your total assets?

Q: Is your total debt service (i.e., the cash you devote each month to paying principal and interest) less than 40% of your income?1

The Federal Reserve has actually asked these questions of consumers for decades as part of its Survey of Consumer Finances. Studying the eight SCFs conducted from 1992-2013, Emmons and Noeth looked at the answers respondents provided to these questions and the level of personal wealth they reported. Their assertion: “In summary, good financial health – as measured by our simple five-question scorecard – is highly correlated with the accumulation of wealth.”2

As part of their research, Emmons and Noeth scored the answers. A financially positive answer to a question was assigned 1 point; a financially negative answer, 0 points.2

The average total score (across more than 38,000 households) was 3.01. The highest average score to a question was 0.91 (the one about debt load being less than 40% of income) and the lowest average score to a question was 0.27 (the one about the percentage of liquid assets among total assets).2

There was a surprising conclusion. The authors found that education was no reliable indicator of personal wealth. When it came to being rich or poor, well-educated individuals had no leg up on lesser-educated individuals.2

What’s your score? If you are able to successively answer the above questions with “yes,” “no,” “no,” “yes” and “yes”, your household is probably in pretty good financial shape – or better. In simple terms, those answers would get you a 5.0.

Here’s the bottom line. If you save money consistently and maintain a good cash position, if you make loan and mortgage payments on time and pay off 100% of your credit card debt each billing cycle, if you avoid debts that put a strain on your budget … congratulations. You are doing the right things on behalf of your financial life and promoting your chances to build wealth.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – stlouisfed.org/newsroom/displayNews.cfm?article=2390 [12/15/14]
2 – stlouisfed.org/publications/pub_assets/pdf/2014/In_the_Balance_issue_10.pdf/ [12/14]

11 Things Successful People Do On Sunday Nights

January 20th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle
Things_Successful_People_Do

Successful people spend quality time with their friends and families on Sunday nights. Most people will tell you they aren’t looking forward to Sunday evening.

In fact, a 2013 poll conducted by Monster.com found that a whopping 78% of surveyed adults worldwide experience the “Sunday night blues” on a regular basis.

Sundays are the dreaded conclusion to a relaxing reprieve from our chaotic work weeks — and many of us get a twinge of melancholy just thinking about our return to the office Monday morning. Sundays are also the time we start dwelling on our unsettled business and stressing about upcoming deadlines and projects.

Even if you love your job and typically look forward to getting back into the swing of things, “it’s easy to feel a bit of trepidation on Sundays about the stresses waiting for you on Monday morning,” writes Laura Vanderkam in her book, “What The Most Successful People Do On The Weekend.”

Here’s what successful people do Sunday nights:
They spend quality time with their families, friends, and significant others. Successful people know that their weeks will be jammed and that they are likely to be unavailable, says Roy Cohen, a career coach and author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.” So they make the most of their Sunday nights by spending time with their loved ones.

They plan something fun. “This idea may be the most important tip,” Vanderkam writes. “This extends the weekend and keeps you focused on the fun to come, rather than on Monday morning.”

Vanderkam quotes Caitlin Andrews, a librarian,  who says her extended family gets together for dinner almost every Sunday, alternating houses. “It takes my mind off any Sunday night blues that might be coming on,”  Andrews says.

You might also make Sunday a movie or spa night, or you could join a Sunday night bowling league.

They organize and plan for the week ahead. Some successful people like to look at their calendars on Sunday night and set goals and deadlines for the upcoming week, says career coach Marsha Egan. The trick is to do this without stressing yourself out.

They exercise. Take a walk, play a game of tennis, or go to a class at the gym, Egan suggests.

Vanderkam writes in her book that reality TV producer  Aliza Rosen does hot yoga at 6:00 p.m. on Sundays. “It’s a great way for me to sweat out the toxins of the week and center myself for Monday,” Rosen told her.

They eat something healthy. It might be tempting to wind down with a couple glasses of your favorite Cabernet, but as licensed counselor and Urban Balance CEO Joyce Marter points out in an article for PsychCentral, alcohol is a depressant that will leave you feeling less energized in the morning.

“Instead, make a healthy meal and enjoy with some herbal tea or some seltzer water with lemon,” she writes.

They catch up on reading that has been neglected. Many successful people read every night before bed , so Sunday-night reading is part of their routines.

They follow up on commitments. “When we make promises [during the week] there is never enough time to follow through,” Cohen says. Sunday nights often allow us the undivided time to respond to emails and fulfill our commitments.

They relax. When you know that the week ahead will be full, a good night’s sleep and a healthy meal are essential. “Fuel for the body and mind,” Cohen says.

They reflect. The dying embers of the weekend can be a good time to take a step back and catalog your feelings, especially if you’re having a case of the Sunday night blues. Writing down your thoughts on a piece of paper can help you get to the bottom of what’s bugging you, or give you the perspective that things aren’t so bad after all.

Either way, the process will provide you with valuable emotional release, University of Texas at Arlington organizational behavior professor James Campbell Quick  tells the Huffington Post .

“It’s a catharsis to get it out on paper … It’s like flushing a toilet: You get it out on paper and you have flushed your system out,” Quick says.

They volunteer. “[Another] great way to end the weekend is to volunteer,” Vanderkam writes in her book. Nothing will take your mind off any stresses in your life like serving people who are less fortunate, she says.  “It’s a way to connect with humanity before everyone goes their separate ways for the week.”

They end Sunday on a high note. “Monday will come regardless of how you feel, so try to engage in positive thinking and reflect on positive experiences before ending your weekend,” says Michael Woodward, Ph.D., organizational psychologist and author of “The YOU Plan.

“Sunday night routines help us to anticipate the week ahead and to prepare for the unexpected,” Cohen says. By doing some or all of the above, successful people are able to start their work week off on the right foot.

Source: finance.yahoo.com

Preventing Frozen Pipes

January 20th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

shutterstock_42880654It’s that time of year again! Our region has already seen temperatures drop below zero and it is not over yet. It is important during the winter season to keep your home and family safe from the outside aliments such as snow, freezing rain and low temperatures.

Many of us remember to shovel and salt the driveway or walkway but we forget about the areas of the home that are unseen like the pipes. Frozen pipes not only disrupt daily life, they can be expensive to repair. An analysis of The Hartford’s winter claims history found that frozen pipes average around $18,000 per claim. Frozen pipes can burst and cause a lot of damage to your home including flooring, furniture and dry wall.

Generally, pipes that are exposed to outdoor temperatures freeze more rapidly, such as hose bibs, swimming pool lines and water sprinkler lines. Pipes that run along the exterior walls in the home with minimal installation also tend to freeze more easily.

You can take precautions to prevent frozen pipes in your home using the following recommendations:

  • Insulate pipes in unheated interior areas, such as crawl spaces and attics.
  • Wrap pipes in heat tape or thermostatically-controlled heat cables.
  • Open cabinet doors to expose pipes to warm air.
  • Seal any leaks with caulk or insulation.
  • Disconnect outdoor items such as hoses and faucets.
  • Trickle a little water out of your faucets periodically to keep water moving within the pipes.
  • Keep your garage door closed if there is a water supply in there.
  • Keep your thermostat set at the same temperature during the day and night.
  • Do not set your thermostat lower that 55°F when going on vacation.

It is also important to talk to your insurance agent to make sure you have the right coverage if you were to experience a burst from a frozen pipe. It is best to check your policy ahead of time, to make sure you know just what it covers, and what your coverage limits are. If you have expensive belongings stored where they may be subject to damage from broken pipes, you may want to increase your coverage.

Monthly Economic Update – January 2015

January 20th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Monthly Economic Update

MonthlyEconomicUpdate-January2015

10 Easy Ways To Free Up A Lot Of Space On Your iPhone

January 20th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Your iPhone is full of junk you don’t need. And a recent class action lawsuit against Apple has brought to light that even if you buy a 16 GB iPhone, you can’t actually use all 16 GB of storage.

So let’s try to make the most of what you have. We have identified 10 simple ways you can manage and clear space on your iPhone:

1. Check your usage

First thing: Find out what’s taking up the most space on your phone. You may have some unexpected storage hogs.

Open the Settings app then go to General > Usage > Manage Storage.

At the top, you’ll see how much space you’ve used and how much you have available. Below, there’s a list of your apps ranked by how much space they’re using. (It will take a minute to load.)

iphone storage

2. Beware of apps’ internal downloads

The numbers you see in Manage Storage include how much the app itself takes up combined with the data inside it. Some apps are small by themselves but can store a lot of files.

For example, the Spotify app is only 56 MB. But if you have a lot of music downloaded to your phone, the app takes up a ridiculous amount of space. I have about 800 songs downloaded, which takes up about 2 GB.

You can tap any app icon in Manage Storage to see the app size versus the downloads within it.

internal downlaods

3. Delete those unused games

Many gaming apps are small, but there are some that can take up more than 1 GB of space because of 3-D graphics. Oregon Trail, for instance, uses 1.2 GB.

You may have some old games hidden on your phone that you’ve either finished or don’t play anymore. Angry Birds? 2048? Candy Crush? Go ahead and delete them. You can do that within Manage Storage by tapping on the app.

delete games

If you ever want to play them again, you can always redownload them from iTunes. But, yes, your score won’t return.

4. Remove old podcasts and videos

All those “Serial” podcasts … are you really going to listen to them again? All right, I wouldn’t judge you, but a 30-minute podcast can be 25 MB. So if you have a bunch of podcasts downloaded to your phone, those can really add up.

Apple’s Podcast app even sorts which ones you have played at the bottom of each list. Just swipe left on the individual podcast to delete.

delete podcasts

Same thing goes with videos — an even larger space invader. Swipe left and tap delete within the Video app.

5. Set your messages to automatically expire

With iOS 8, you can now automatically delete older messages. If you like going back through old messages, don’t go this route. But do you really need those conversations after a year? This option is much easier than manually deleting old threads.

Go to Settings > Messages. Under Keep Message, select 30 days or 1 year.

message history

You can also adjust how long your video and audio messages are stored. You can set them to expire after two minutes or never.

6. Use Google+ or Dropbox for storing photos

You might not want to take all your photos off your phone, and you don’t have to. But you can save space by having your photo library back up automatically to a cloud storage system.

We recommend using the app Google+ because not only does it give you an unlimited amount of storage — for photos less than 2048 by 2048 pixels (which includes anything you’ll be taking on your phone) and videos less than 15 minutes long — but it’s also free.

google photo storage

All you have to do is download the Google+ app, make a Google account if you don’t have one already, and select Auto Back-Up under the app’s Settings. Be sure to select to have it back up Over Wi-Fi Only so you aren’t charged for data use. You can also use Dropbox (instructions here) or Apple’s iCloud.

7. Stop using Photo Stream

Your iPhone’s Photo Stream automatically syncs your last 1,000 photos across your iOS devices. But that means it’s storing 1,000 photos — about 1 GB — twice. So unless you need to share your photos from your iPad to your iPhone all the time, turn it off.

Under Settings, scroll down to Photos & Camera and toggle off My Photo Stream.

photo stream iphone

8. Only save HDR photos

If you have your photos automatically backed up and are deleting them (see Tip 6), that should no longer be your space hog. But you may have noticed that your phone can store two images of the same photo. That’s your phone using HDR (High Dynamic Range). See the difference here:

hdr images iphone

This will happen if you have HDR on Auto or selected as always On. The camera setting is best for capturing images in low light or with shadows. If you choose to shoot in HDR, then you don’t need to keep the normal photo as well. Go to Settings > Photo & Camera. Scroll to the bottom and deselect Keep Normal Photo.

hdr photo keep

9. Sign up for a streaming music service

The days of storing all your songs on your device are over. Download the albums you love, and stream the rest.

If you’re devoted to iTunes, sign up for iTunes Match. For $25 per year, you can have every track in your iTunes library accessible via the cloud. You can download any song or album directly to your phone by tapping on the cloud icon next to it.

itunes match

Or, if you want to have access to a larger library, consider the music streaming service Spotify.

10. Explore the “Other” section on iTunes and restore your phone

The “Other” category, shown in your phone’s storage on iTunes, includes your email, music and web-browsing data. Sometimes the files can get corrupted and take up more space than they should. The easiest way to clear this out is to back up your data and restore your phone on iTunes.

itunes screenshot

Go to iTunes and save a backup of your phone’s data to your computer by selecting Back Up Now. Then choose to Restore iPhone. And lastly, Restore Backup.

Source: huffingtonpost.com

How Cooking Boosts Creativity, Mindfulness, and Mastery

January 20th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

Like many, I was introduced to cooking when I started college at 17 — to survive. Since then I have traveled many miles, experienced many cuisines, and cooked many meals.

Along the way I have learned a few things about food, the process of cooking, and the impact it makes on our mind, body, and soul during good times and bad times. Food is the most fundamental of needs for our survival and almost every major event in our lives revolves around it.

It plays a vital role in the development of social interactions and social relationships. I find food to be sacred and the process of making food to be awakening and insightful. Although I am not professionally trained, cooking has become a joyful passion.

The process of making food has taught me to be mindful, embrace creativity, and push for mastery. Below are a few lessons that might make you think differently the next time you enter your kitchen.

Ritualistic Cooking Can Enhance Mindfulness

Along with billions of others around the globe, I suffer from the daily grind of life. My affinity with mindful living is not grounded in any kind of scientific research — rather from constant self-analysis. I have found cooking is a means towards that journey of mindfulness. It’s been said that the only two jobs of a Zen monk that are more important than sitting zazen (meditation) are cooking and cleaning. Cooking is a great way to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. It simply means living in the moment and awakening to experience. And it takes practice to be mindful. I have found that when I ritualistically cook on a regular basis it enhances my ability to be mindful about everything else I do.

In the 13th century, Japanese Zen master Dogen wrote “Instructions for the Tenzo,” or head cook. In examining the manners and methods of preparing a meal at the Monastery, he reveals how to “cook” — or refine — your whole life. In one such instruction, he says “When you boil rice, know that the water is your own life.” How do we cultivate the mind that cares as deeply for an ordinary thing, like water, as it cares for our very own life? Sounds simple — but it’s actually pretty hard — go ahead and try it. It comes from putting our entire mind into those simple tasks, concentrating deeply, and doing them intentionally and completely. And when we are mindful, it allows us to better connect with the:

  • Past — What we have completed
  • Present — The task at hand
  • Future — How our task at hand moves us forward

I believe, if we consciously think about the ingredients we choose, their preparation, the way we cook and the way we eat, it can contribute towards the development of mindfulness.

Conscious Openness Is At The Heart of Any Creative Process

I don’t ever follow a recipe for my cooking. I like to experiment, mix and match, and “design” my meals. I make my decisions based on availability, my eating companions, and the hour of the day.

Over the years this awareness (during cooking) of resource, audience, and need helped me hone how I think. When I started cooking at the age of 17, just like life, I was unsure of the kitchen. Now I try to “create” my food with confidence. It is entirely natural for me to mix Japanese mirin with Indian turmeric and Mexican chilies.

In 2006, chefs Ferran Adria of El Bulli, Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck, Thomas Keller of French Laundry and Per Se, and the writer Harold McGee put forward what they termed “the international agenda for great cooking,” and while its focus is food, it could well serve as a manifesto for anyone who is in the business of creativity:

We believe that today and in the future, a commitment to excellence requires openness to all resources that can help us give pleasure and meaning to people through the medium of food. In the past, cooks and their dishes were constrained by many factors: the limited availability of ingredients and ways of transforming them, limited understanding of cooking processes, and the necessarily narrow definitions and expectations embodied in local tradition. Today there are many fewer constraints, and tremendous potential for the progress of our craft. We can choose from the entire planet’s ingredients, cooking methods, and traditions, and draw on all of human knowledge, to explore what it is possible to do with food and the experience of eating.

Just like making music or poetry, cooking requires understanding interconnectedness and harmonies. Anyone can mix and match two random sets of ingredients together, but not everyone can cook. Understanding the relationships between the ingredients and their interactions is crucial to creating a successful dish. This conscious openness is precisely what is at the heart of any creative process regardless of what we do and the medium we use.

Mastery Comes From Enthusiastic and Devoted Practice

Most mornings I prepare my son a balanced breakfast and a lunch pack between 6 a.m. and 6:15 a.m.

I have about 15 min to cook eggs, toast bread, chop fruit, make a sandwich, etc. Not much time, right? Actually, it’s plenty. It comes from skills, practice, confidence, and organization. It begins with breaking down the process into mini goals:

  • I first decide what I want to cook based on what’s available
  • I do all the prep work needed to create the meal
  • I start cooking based on the cooking time and how I will serve the meal

Along with clear thinking, being productive requires skills. And mastery comes from enthusiastic and repeated, devoted practice. In the video clip below from the movie Julie & Julia, Julia Child demonstrates what 100 pounds of onions and deliberate practice can achieve. She began with one onion and continued to use deliberate practice to master one skill at a time until she became known as the best teacher in French cooking.

I have come to believe that whether we like to cook or not, these same principles apply to just about anything else we undertake. It’s about the awareness we experience, the devotion we apply, and as a result, how we create. Happy cooking — whatever you may be cooking up!

Source: huffingtonpost.com

February is American Heart Month

January 20th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

February Is American Heart Month: Are You at Risk for Heart Disease?

heartmonth_456pxDuring the month of February, Americans see the human heart as the symbol of love. February is American Heart Month, a time to show yourself the love. Learn about your risks for heart disease and stroke and stay “heart healthy” for yourself and your loved ones.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD)—including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure—is the number 1 killer of women and men in the United States. It is a leading cause of disability, preventing Americans from working and enjoying family activities.1 CVD costs the United States over $300 billion each year, including the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.1

Understanding the Burden of CVD

CVD does not affect all groups of people in the same way. Although the number of preventable deaths has declined in people aged 65 to 74 years, it has remained unchanged in people under age 65. Men are more than twice as likely as women to die from preventable CVD.2

Having a close relative who has heart disease puts you at higher risk for CVD. Health disparities based on geography also exist. During 2007–2009, death rates due to heart disease were the highest in the South and lowest in the West.

Race and ethnicity also affect your risk. Nearly 44% of African American men and 48% of African American women have some form of CVD. And African Americans are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to have high blood pressure and to develop the condition earlier in life. About 2 in 5 African American adults have high blood pressure, yet fewer than half of them have the condition under control.

Many CVD deaths could have been prevented through healthier habits, healthier living spaces, and better management of conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.2

Take It One Step at a Time

You can control a number of risk factors for CVD, including:

  • heartmonth_a200pxDiet
  • Physical activity
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes

As you begin your journey to better heart health that can last a lifetime, keep these things in mind:

  • Try not to become overwhelmed. Every step brings you closer to a healthier heart, and every healthy choice makes a difference!
  • Partner up. The journey is more fun—and often more successful—when you have company. Ask friends and family to join you.
  • Don’t get discouraged. You may not be able to take all of the steps at one time. Get a good night’s sleep—also important for a healthy heart—and do what you can tomorrow.
  • Reward yourself. Find fun things to do to decrease your stress. Round up some colleagues for a lunchtime walk, join a singing group, or have a healthy dinner with your family or friends.

Plan for Prevention

Try out these strategies for better heart health. You’ll be surprised how many of them can become lifelong habits!

Work with your health care team. Get a checkup at least once each year, even if you feel healthy. A doctor, nurse, or other health care professional can check for conditions that put you at risk for CVD, such as high blood pressure and diabetes—conditions that can go unnoticed for too long.

Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis. You can check your blood pressure at home, at a pharmacy, or at a doctor’s office. Find more information at CDC’s High Blood Pressure Web site.

Get your cholesterol checked. Your health care team should test your cholesterol levels at least once every 5 years. Talk with your health care professional about this simple blood test. You can find out more from CDC’s High Cholesterol Web site.

Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid CVD and its complications. Limiting sodium in your diet can lower your blood pressure. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables—adults should have at least five servings each day. Eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber. For more information on eating a healthy diet, visit CDC’s Nutrition page and ChooseMyPlate.gov.

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for CVD. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, health care professionals often calculate a number called body mass index (BMI). Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure a person’s body fat. If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight Web site.

Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity activity for at least 150 minutes per week. Remember to incorporate exercise into your day in different ways: take the stairs instead of the elevator, or rake the yard instead of using the leaf blower. Exercising with friends and family can be a great way to stay healthy and have fun. For more information, visit CDC’s page on physical activity.

Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for CVD. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit as soon as possible. Your health care team can suggest ways to help you quit. For more information about tobacco use and quitting, see CDC’s Smoking & Tobacco Use Web site and Smokefree.gov.

Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can increase your blood pressure. Men should stick to no more than two drinks per day, and women to no more than one. For more information, visit CDC’s Alcohol and Public Health Web site.

Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels closely, and talk with your health care team about treatment options. Visit CDC’s Diabetes Public Health Resource for more information.

Take your medicine. If you’re taking medication to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or another condition, follow the instructions carefully. Always ask questions if you don’t understand something. If you have side effects, talk with your health care team about your options.
Need more inspiration? The “28 Days to a Healthier Heart” tips can inspire you throughout February and all year long. Follow Million Hearts® on Facebook and Twitter for even more ways to protect your heart and live a longer, healthier life. Million Hearts® is a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.

Together, we all can prevent and manage heart disease, one step at a time.

Source: cdc.gov

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