What You May Not Know About Heart Health

What You May Not Know About Heart Health

It's no secret; taking care of your heart is important. Medical research knows a lot about what makes the heart so unique, but our personal connection to our own hearts makes it even more extraordinary. Science tells us it delivers oxygenated blood to our bodies; experience tells us how special it was to hear our own heartbeat for the first time as a kid at the doctor's office. Our hearts are worth taking care of.

But with all that we know, heart disease still takes a life every 7 minutes, accounting for more than 69,500 Canadian deaths each year. In fact, it may surprise you that heart disease and stroke are two of the three leading causes of death in Canada. They are also the leading cause of hospitilization in Canada.1 That's money, time and resources we could enjoy more with family and friends.

Luckily, diet and lifestyle work together to help reduce the risk of heart disease.2

Did you know that high blood pressure, high LDL-cholesterol and smoking are three risk factors for developing heart disease?1 Managing these risks is an essential step to maintaining a healthy heart. Many of us are unaware of our blood pressure or cholesterol numbers and are unfamiliar about how our lifestyle affects them.

That's because lifestyle plays a role in keeping your heart healthy. To reduce your risk for heart disease eat a healthy diet, maintain healthy body weight, keep active, limit your alcohol intake and don't smoke.

The good news is that positive changes in lifestyle can happen at any age.

You're in control

Eating a healthy diet that contains plenty of vegetables, fruits, fibre containing whole grains and polyunsaturated fats is a great way to show your heart you care.

Eating well doesn't mean giving up good taste! Add something new to your weekday menu with tuna, fresh mixed greens, ripe sweet tomatoes and a drizzle of a balsamic olive oil mix. Get mornings off to a great start with a hearty bowl of a whole grain, high fibre cereal with a glass of milk or a fortified beverage made even more tempting with fresh walnuts, blueberries and a touch of honey. Grab a quick lunch with a sauté of bright bell peppers, onions and avocado slices wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla, complemented by a blend of brown rice and black beans on the side.

Combine good-for-you food choices with physical activity and it will strengthen all your muscles, including your heart (your heart is a muscle!). Want another benefit? Regular activity can put you on the path toward achieving a healthier weight, and this can put less strain on the heart. And the news keeps getting better: Active people are almost 50% less likely to develop heart disease than inactive people.3

At least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week can make a huge difference to manage risk factors for heart disease and stroke.1 Take a walk around your neighbourhood with a dog, friend or both. Take the stairs at work to get your heart rate up. Practice basic yoga poses to engage body and mind.

When you keep in mind how your heart loves you, you can make positive choices that love it back.

1 Heart and Stroke Foundation
2 Mozaffarian D, Appel LJ, Van Horn L. Components of a cardioprotective diet: new insights. Circulation. 2011;123(24):2870-91.
3 US Department of Health and Human Services. Physical activity and health: a report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, Georgia: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 1996.

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