Falling into bad habits is easy, but learning how to change those habits takes dedication, patience and a little elbow grease. If you want to lower your risk for heart disease, start small. Instead of diving in all at once, use small goals to work up to an ultimate habit makeover. Over time, you can implement healthy behaviors like those below and start feeling like a better you.

Adjust your diet

Substitute calorie-free herbs and spices in place of salt. Use the Plate Method for measuring portions, and serve meat paired whole grains like brown rice and green vegetables. Fruits come in a variety of flavors and pair well with peanut butter, honey and nuts for a dessert alternative.

When grocery shopping, do your best to avoid inner food aisles. Replace morning granola bars with scrambled eggs. Start food in the slow cooker in the morning so you have a healthy meal waiting for you when you get home from work. Drinking more water in place of caffeine can also help improve overall health and lower blood pressure.

Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke

Just being around cigarette smoke can increase a nonsmoker’s risk for developing heart disease by about 30 percent. Because smoking damages the lining of your arteries, fatty material will build up. Once arteries become narrow from the fatty material, the risk of a heart attack or stroke increases exponentially. Find a free program to help you quit smoking here.

Cut down on drinking alcohol

Alcohol both raises blood pressure and works negatively with many medications. Reducing the amount you drink can also help lower your daily caloric intake and aid in weight loss efforts.

Walk 30 Minutes at least five days a week

Keep your arteries flexible by keeping your body mobile. The American Heart Association recommends frequent exercise to improve heart health, but exercise doesn’t have to be hard. Low-impact sports or walking are beneficial for anyone living a predominantly sedentary lifestyle.

Enroll in M Power self-management programs.

M Power is a collaboration of health departments across Southeast Missouri offering free workshops to individuals currently diagnosed with chronic disease, individuals at risk for developing chronic disease and those who care for others at risk for or currently living with a chronic disease. Research shows these supportive programs help individuals develop skills they need for tackling difficult habits and improving overall well-being.

Did you know that most Americans do not know they have heart disease until they have a heart attack or other chest pains? Find out if you’re at risk for diabetesobesity complications or heart disease so you can make changes for the better today.