February is heart health month, making it the perfect time to learn more about heart disease and how you can help prevent it by living a healthier life.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease is a buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries that can lead to a heart attack, heart failure or death.1 Approximately 1 out of 12 (or 2.4 million) Canadians live with heart disease. However, as of 2013, the rate of Canadians diagnosed with heart disease began decreasing.2
Prevention is very important as 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices.3 Here are some tips to keep your heart strong:
Live smoke free
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Smoking and tobacco use is the leading risk for premature death in Canada, causing 45,000 deaths annually.4 Living smoke-free doesn’t only benefit you but also those around you. Second hand smoke, which is the smoke we breathe in when we are with smokers, is harmful to all, but especially to children. Smoking while pregnant increases the risk of a miscarriage and birth complications. Children who live with smokers can develop more colds, chest and ear infections and pneumonia.5
Maintain a healthy weight
This is an important factor to avoid heart disease that doesn’t necessarily mean altering your lifestyle completely. Take small steps and always be realistic with your goals. Losing one-two pounds per week is much healthier than a drastic drop in weight.
Be physically active
All it takes is 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise each day to keep your heart healthy. You may be surprised at how quickly shoveling the snow, raking the leaves or going up and down the stairs can add up to 30 minutes. If you have children, go outside and play, improvise exercises during commercial breaks or plan family excursions on the weekends. These everyday tasks you do at home keep your heart beating strong.
Eat your vegetables
Vegetables and fruits are packed with nutrients, so eating the recommended 7-10 servings per day is key to preventing heart disease. When choosing fruits and vegetables, think of the rainbow and aim to purchase a variety of colours for maximum health benefits. Did you know that frozen vegetables and fruits have the same amount of nutrients as fresh? Just make sure you buy products with no added sugar.
Manage your stress
Almost 25% of Canadians admit they have a high degree of stress. Recognizing what causes you stress is an important step in learning how to manage it. If you are feeling tense or anxious, try going for a walk, taking a few deep breaths or listening to a guided meditation.
A healthy heart is a happy heart. Start this month off right and incorporate the above tips into your everyday life.
1, 2, 3. Health Canada
4, 5. Heart and Stroke Foundation