February is Heart Month across Canada. The goal of this initiative is to put heart health on the main menu to educate Canadians about their hearts and to give them some easy-to-follow suggestions to increase heart health levels.
Today heart disease is the leading cause of death in developing countries. One life is taken every 7 minutes and over 90% of Canadians have at least one risk factor. The risk factors are both non-modifiable and modifiable. Nothing can be done about family history, ethnicity or age so we have to move on to what we can control. Some key modifiable factors include obesity, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tobacco use and exposure, and alcohol misuse.
The good news is that with six simple steps you can dramatically increase your heart health by reducing or eliminating these modifiable risk factors. Best of all, these steps only require the application of common sense and the will to improve your physical health.
● LOSE WEIGHT
There is a simple formula here - reduce calories in and increase calories out. If you eat less that you burn, you will lose weight. There will always be a debate regarding healthy weight measurements but we know for certain that being overweight increases risk of heart disease. It’s estimated that 60% to 70% of Canadians are overweight so apparently most of us have some work to do here.
● EAT HEALTHY
The best approach has worked for millennia - eat real, fresh whole food, mostly plants. Fill up on a variety of local colorful fruits and veggies, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fiber-rich whole grains, lean meat, poultry and fish. Read your labels and cut your sodium intake. Eating healthy will help to control blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure as well.
Our bodies are designed to be active. Exercise can be anything that gets you moving and gets your heart rate up. You don’t have to join a gym or buy expensive equipment. Brisk walking will do it. Choose something you like to do and do it for 30 minutes a day.
● MANAGE YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE
Use those blood pressure monitors you see in pharmacies. Know your numbers. Most of the time there are no symptoms for high blood pressure. Lifestyle changes can make a big difference in keeping your blood pressure numbers in the healthy range. Exercise, eat healthy and lose weight are keys to healthy blood pressure.
● LIMIT ALCOHOL
Alcohol misuse can weaken your heart muscle. Limit your alcohol consumption to no more than one drink a day.
Avoid all forms of tobacco and second-hand smoke. Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your overall health.
The best news of all is that heart disease is preventable. Small steps can make a big difference. Take a step today.