Save Money and Improve Heart Health by Cutting These 5 Bad Habits

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Heart disease is one of the leading, most expensive causes of death in the United States. One in four deaths is caused by heart disease each year, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

February is American Heart Month; and, while it may be a short month, there are several steps you can take that cut bad habits, save money and allow you to live a heart-healthy lifestyle.

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Bad Habit: Not Exercising

Try: Committing to a walking schedule.

The NHLBI recommends engaging in at least two and a half hours of physical activity each week. This averages out to committing 30 minutes each day, five days a week, to exercise. 

Start exercising by committing to a walking schedule. Why walking? Walking is a free alternative to a gym membership or exercise class. You may walk on your own or encourage a family member, friend or colleague to join you. Use this time to listen to your favorite songs or catch up on a podcast. Walk along a scenic location, like a park or trail, that allows you to get in your steps and enjoy the view. 

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Remember that two and a half hours of physical activity is just a starting point. You can walk for longer periods of time, and start new exercise habits like muscle strengthening exercises.

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Bad Habit: Ordering Out

Try: Cooking and meal prep.

Cutting back on fast-food spending is harder than it looks. After a long day, it’s easier to zip into a fast-food drive-thru than cook dinner when you get home. 

The more you make it a habit to eat out, the more you’ll realize fast food is (literally) eating at your savings. Cut back on fast-food expenses by reframing the way you think about cooking. Look up recipes for heart-healthy meals and consider meal prepping at the start of the week. Meal prep for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Freeze the prepped meals so you always have a tasty meal to enjoy. 

Be intentional when grocery shopping, too. Make a list of inexpensive ingredients and stick to it. Avoid shopping on an empty stomach so you don’t make impulse buys that are bad for your health, heart and bank account. Look for options where you can swap out items that are high in sodium or unhealthy fats with heart-friendly alternatives.

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Also See: 11 Delicious Recipes You Can Make on the Cheap With Your Pantry Staples

Bad Habit: Smoking

Try: Quitting smoking.

Quitting smoking usually doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s critically important to consider quitting for your overall health and finances. 

Find out on the Smokefree calculator how much of your money is (literally) going up in smoke. Enter the number of cigarettes you smoke each day and the amount you pay per pack. Based on these numbers, you can calculate how much you’ll save in one day, one week, one month and even over 20 years. Cigarettes also increase 6% in cost on an annual basis and are harmful to heart and blood vessels, making quitting a win-win for your budget and overall health.

How can you begin giving up tobacco? Visit Smokefree.gov for information on quitting and learn which approaches and resources work best for you. 

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Bad Habit: Excessive Drinking

Try: Slowing down alcohol consumption.

Similar to frequenting a fast-food restaurant, drinking and going out for happy hour can become an expensive habit. Prices for drinks and appetizers are slightly reduced during happy hour, making it seem as though you are saving more than spending. However, the price tag adds up quickly if you go out frequently and purchase multiple drinks. It’s also a habit that can quietly lead to excessive alcohol use or binge drinking.

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One of the best solutions is to slow down alcohol consumption. Try ordering water between drinks during happy hour. This helps you hydrate and may even make you reconsider ordering another drink. You might use the time spent on another round to leave early so you can spend a bit of time relaxing before getting ready for bed. Your wallet and heart will thank you!

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Bad Habit: Not Sleeping

Try: Getting a good night’s sleep.

If you struggle to fall asleep, now is the time to prioritize your sleep schedule. The NHLBI recommends getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Not sleeping enough or getting poor quality sleep increases your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Getting a good night’s sleep may sometimes require professional help. Schedule an annual physical with your doctor. Use this time to discuss your heart health goals and talk about sleep, especially if you struggle to fall asleep or stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Your doctor may be able to recommend some of the best practices in sleep hygiene tailored for your specific needs.

Discover more heart health facts and resources at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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About the Author

Heather Taylor is a senior finance writer for GOBankingRates. She is also the head writer and brand mascot enthusiast for PopIcon, Advertising Week’s blog dedicated to brand mascots. She has been published on HelloGiggles, Business Insider, The Story Exchange, Brit + Co, Thrive Global, and more media outlets. 

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