Health Advocate Blog

Keep Your Heart Healthy on a Budget

In the United States, someone dies from cardiovascular disease every 33 seconds, according to The Heart Foundation.  In honor of American Heart Month, Health Advocate Inc. and The Healthcare Survival Guide offer the following tips on how you can reduce the risks associated with developing heart disease on a low-cost budget.

Keep moving. The American Heart Association says that exercising for even 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of heart disease. And keeping a healthy weight can be helpful for your heart. If you need to lose weight, increasing your physical activity can also help you lose pounds.

If you can’t afford an expensive gym membership and you want to stay fit, there are several low-cost alternatives you can try.  Consider these ideas to help you jumpstart your fitness goals.

Try to take a brisk walk every day, whether it’s at the park, your neighborhood or local mall. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you’re driving, consider parking the car father away from your destination in order to get in some extra walking. You can even make a workout from your household chores. Cleaning the house, gardening and raking leaves are some good ideas to increase physical activity and get the heart pumping.

If you’re looking to enhance your workout, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on fancy equipment to get the results you’re looking for. Many household items make perfect low-cost substitutes. For example, canned goods or milk gallons can serve as hand weights. You can reuse the empty jugs and fill them with water or sand and adjust the weights to better meet your fitness level changes by adding more sand or water.  If you have a step stool, you can use that or a set of stairs for step training.

Jump ropes are also fairly inexpensive and jumping rope can be a great cardiovascular workout. If you don’t want to purchase one, you can use clothesline rope. Just cut it down to the size you’re looking for. Also, think about trying exercise videos and DVDs, which can create the feel of a gym in your own home.

If you are interested in taking an exercise class and don’t want to break the bank, check out your local community recreational department. Many offer discounted fitness classes to local residents.

Eat right.  Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as fiber-rich whole grain foods can help reduce cholesterol and keep blood sugar at healthy levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. Use sodium-free or reduced sodium soups, gravies and sauces, and avoid drinking sugar-sweetened beverages. Eat more oily fish that is high in Omega -3 fatty acids, such as salmon, Arctic char and mackerel to keep your heart healthy.

It can be easy to eat healthy without spending too much money. Consider the following ideas when grocery shopping.

Look for sales and coupons on fresh fruits and vegetables. Choose larger bags of fruit (like apples, oranges and pears) instead of the single fruits that are priced per pound.

Look for generic brands. Generics provide great savings and have the same nutritional value and ingredients as the popular brand names.

Skip the bottled water; drink tap water. If you prefer bottled water, buy the larger gallon size instead of the smaller single bottles.

Stroll through the frozen goods aisle. Many fruits are out of season in the winter and those that are available are usually imported and very expensive.  Look for frozen fruits instead. Buying a frozen bag of berries can be an inexpensive and healthy option. Also consider canned fruits, such as peaches, in 100 percent fruit juice.

Quit smoking.  Smoking is one of the leading risk factors to coronary heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, smoking decreases your tolerance for physical activity and increases the tendency for blood to clot. It decreases HDL, which is a “good” kind of cholesterol. Your risks increase greatly if you smoke and have a family history of heart disease. Smoking also creates a higher risk for peripheral artery disease and aortic aneurysm. It increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery, too.

If you are having a hard time quitting, there is help. Check with your employer to see if a smoking cessation program is offered. If not, there are several organizations that can help you quit smoking. Some resources include:

American Cancer Society Toll-free hotline: 1-800-ACS-2345,

National Cancer Institute: Toll-free hotline: 1-877-44U-QUIT,

Stay cool, calm and collected. Keeping stress levels at a minimum can also lower your blood pressure. To help manage your stress, try meditation or yoga. Yoga actually helps to lower blood pressure and decreases the heart rate, according to the Mayo Clinic. Exercising can also relieve tension. Going for a brisk walk can increase the production of endorphins, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, according to the Mayo Clinic.

If you find it too overwhelming to keep stress at a minimum, try talking to your physician, health provider, clergy or counselor.  You can also contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness:, 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). Each state has its own chapter.

Keeping yourself healthy through exercise, lifestyle and eating right may help to minimize the risk of developing heart disease down the road. If you already have high blood pressure or have a heart condition, it can also help you manage your condition. You don’t have to spend a fortune to be healthy. Eating right, working out and making some lifestyle changes can be easily done on a low-cost budget.  Remember to always talk to your doctor first before starting any new exercise or dieting routine.