Your heart health should be a top priority, but all too often it takes a back seat to more immediate needs like work and family. You may also feel that the costs of eating healthy and exercising are too much of a burden on your already-tight finances.
But considering that cardiovascular disease claims the lives of millions of Americans every year, your heart health shouldn’t be ignored — no matter the reason.
6 Ways to Improve Your Heart Health on a Budget
Here are several simple and inexpensive ways to boost your heart health without compromising your budget.
Walk Your Way to Health
Like any muscle in your body, the heart grows stronger with exercise. This doesn’t mean you have to pay for a pricey gym membership or a personal trainer. A nice long walk outside is all you need to get into shape.
In fact, the American Heart Association says as little as 30 minutes a day, five times a week of aerobic exercise — including walking — can reduce your risk of heart disease.
If the weather isn’t cooperating, go to an indoor mall where you can walk around in the warmth and window shop. Just make sure to leave your wallet in the car so you don’t get tempted to buy something on impulse!
Leverage Your Body Weight
Squats, pushups, jumping jacks and other body weight exercises are simple and effective ways to help you lose weight and improve your heart health without the added cost of fitness equipment. Plus, you can do these moves anywhere: at home, in your backyard or in a hotel room when traveling.
Make these moves more challenging by using items around your house. A chair is a great tool for step ups, tricep dips and decline pushups. Water bottles can be used in place of small hand weights, and borrowing (and using) your child’s jump rope is a great way to burn calories quickly.
Choose Produce Wisely
Good-for-you foods seem to be more expensive than boxed, frozen and fried items. If you know how to shop, however, there are plenty of ways to save on healthier options.
Always look for recipes that use seasonal produce for the best prices. Otherwise, head over to the frozen food aisle. There where you’ll find veggies and fruits that have been flash frozen at peak ripeness to preserve flavor and nutrients, and you’ll save usually save about 30% buying frozen instead of fresh.
If you buy organic, don’t waste money on produce that has built-in protection from pesticides and other toxic residues. Avocados, pineapple and other members of the Clean 15 list can be bought in the regular produce section.
Lean Up on Cheaper Protein
Studies show that a diet higher in protein may provide heart benefits, with some of the best sources coming from fish. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish per week for protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
Luckily, canned tuna (in water) and frozen salmon are reasonable alternatives to the high prices of fresh fish. Skinless chicken breasts are another healthy source of protein. Make sure to compare the unit prices, and avoid pre-seasoned or pre-cut options (they’re more expensive).
Quit Bad Habits for Good
Drinking alcohol and smoking aren’t just bad for your health, they’re bad for your wallet, too. If you need extra motivation, figure out how much money you could save by eliminating these bad habits from your life.
For instance, someone who smokes one pack of cigarettes a day could save more than $1,000 per year. When it comes to booze, use this alcohol spending calculator to figure out how much you’re blowing and then rethink your next night out.
Cut Prescription Costs
If you suffer from high blood pressure or high cholesterol, it’s important to schedule routine check-ups with your doctor and take medication as prescribed.
Unfortunately, the cost of preferred drugs are on the rise with employer-sponsored plans featuring more expensive tiers for prescriptions. You can help your budget by opting for the generic version of any medication you are prescribed and asking if you can split pills to reduce the total filling cost without compromising your treatment.
Staying loyal to a specific pharmacy can also pay off in rewards for discounts on future medication needs.
But shopping around can also save you a lot of money, sometimes hundreds of dollars, depending on the medication. In fact, if you took the same prescription to two different pharmacies, even on the same block, one store could charge you double, triple, or even more for that same medication!
So it’s crucial that you do a little research to find the best prices, and there are free resources available that can do it for you.