Share this heart health checklist with the dad in your life
Last Father’s Day, I gave you ideas on healthy ways to celebrate. This year, I want to build on the idea of giving the dads in your lives the gift of health in an even more tangible way. So I created this checklist, based on the pillars of healthy longevity, for you to use or share. Each item involves taking stock and an action item. (As a bonus for those who are sharing, offer to participate in the action items with the dads in your life!)
- Keep a food diary for 3-4 days, then assess how you’re doing on eating a whole-food, plant-based diet.
- Most men will find that they could stand to eat more vegetables and fruits. Fortunately, that’s easier to do in summer! Get inspired by a local farmer’s market (or find local produce at your grocery store) and dedicate yourself to finding three new favorites to add to your rotation. The big bonus of focusing on foods to add, rather than subtract, is that it takes deprivation out of the equation. Even though you end up pretty much in the same place. Because our stomachs are only so big, purposefully adding in health promoting items naturally displaces ones that are less so.
- Add a column to that food diary for exercise, then add up how much time you spend exercising.
- Forget steps…aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day, at least five days of the week. If you’ve been getting less than that, find a partner to join you for motivation and accountability. Or make access to something you enjoy - like viewing your favorite TV show - contingent on moving your body. If you have exercise equipment at home, it’s easy to combine the activities. Long term, your goal should be a whole hour each day of the week (even if it’s cut up into chunks).
- Connecting with other people your own age can get complicated, especially when you’re busy raising kids. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Identify a few friends you’d like to reconnect with and then reach out.
- Set up a standing dads’ night out or invite an old friend to shoot hoops or explore a local hiking trail. Activities like golf, pickleball and tennis are meant to involve more than one person, so they're wonderful opportunities to get in some exercise while affording time to socialize.
- These days, stress is almost universal. But how we deal with it can either add or detract from our health. Make a list of the things that tend to provoke stress for you and what you currently do to alleviate that stress. Are you turning to comfort foods, nicotine and alcohol or are you turning to exercise, reflection and solution-generation?
- Recognizing a pattern of counterproductive responses will help you manage stress differently in the future. And while you're at it, remember to turn off your phone for a bit each day (or at least set it to do not disturb). We can all use a respite from the constant stream of information and communication.
One last tip: Don’t tackle this entire list at once. Tape it to the fridge and focus on one category each week. Then start looking forward to celebrating the many years of Father’s Days to come!
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