Written by Yuki Hayashi
3 min read
You might have noticed, as we edge towards Valentine’s Day, that red and pink hearts are slowly invading all the shops and restaurants. Love it or hate it, let’s use it as a reminder to show some love to our own heart this month, you know, that most vital muscle that pumps blood to our entire body?
Here are 3 stats worth thinking about:
• Heart disease and stroke are the second most common cause of death in Canadian adults
• Over 1 million Canadians suffer from heart disease.
(Heart disease is a term used to describe a group of conditions affecting the structure and condition of the heart. Stroke is a related condition, where the blood vessels to the brain are blocked, or they burst, causing a sudden loss of brain function.)
• Finally, 8 in 10 cases of premature heart disease and stroke are preventable through lifestyle behaviours
So now is the perfect time to embrace healthy habits that can help protect your ticker, not to mention your overall health.
Healthy habit #1: Eat well
- Reduce your consumption of heavily processed foods like ready-made meals and takeout. They’re usually high in salt, sugar and saturated and trans fats. Home-cooking is better – often cheaper too!
- Aim to get 7-10 servings of fruit and veggies daily.
- Swap refined bread and cereals for fibre-, protein- and Vitamin B-rich whole grain versions.
- Don’t forget your daily protein: your muscles, heart and brain will all thank you! Leaner protein sources like fish, beans, poultry, nuts and low-fat dairy are best for your heart.
Healthy habit #2: Get moving!
Regular exercise is a literal lifesaver. Besides boosting mood and overall health (including mental health), it reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke, and heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type-2 diabetes, and obesity.
Still looking for an exercise regimen that “sticks”? See what’s on offer at your local rec centre online: classes are highly motivating and come with a built-in peer group. From HIIT to Zumba, there’s something for every interest and activity level.
Talk to your healthcare provider about what physical activity program may be right for you.
Healthy habit #3: Maintain a healthy weight
Did you know that for heart health, HOW your body stores extra fat matters as much as whether or not you are overweight? It’s true: someone can be a textbook-healthy weight, yet still be at increased risk for heart disease due to their waist size.
Check out Heart & Stroke’s Healthy Weight and Waist to learn how to assess your risk, and to find out what steps you can take to get your belly to a more optimal size.
Healthy habit #4: Stress less
This isn’t exactly breaking news: those terrible heart-pounding, fenced-in, I-want-to-scream feelings are bad for your heart. Besides increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke, stress often leads to mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Sadly, almost ¼ of Canadians report being highly stressed out.
The first step to managing stress to identify it. Take Heart & Stroke’s 5-minute Stress Test to assess your situation, and for recommendations on how to manage your personal challenges.
Let’s make the most of Heart Month – and carry that heart-lovin’ vibe into the rest of the year, too! The Heart & Stroke website offers a treasure trove of info on the matter. Check out their online Risk Assessment questionnaire, which takes just minutes to complete, and will set you up with a free personalized health report and coaching. Why not try it sometime this February, so you can protect what matters most.
Join the conversation: what heart-protecting activities do you love to do?