February is National Heart Month!
The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation notes that nine in 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease refers to a group of conditions that affect the structure and functions of the heart and has many root causes.
The good news is almost 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through healthy behaviors.
Many risks are in your control, here are a few things you should be aware of to help your heart stay healthy
Eat more fruits and veggies
It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins, minerals and fiber to control cholesterol levels and make you feel energized. Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and collard greens are a great source of vitamin K, which helps protect arteries and promote proper blood clotting.
Increase physical activity
Cardio exercise is best for a healthy heart. Endurance/cardio activity increases heart rate and blood flow. Examples include walking, swimming, stationary biking or light aerobics. You don’t need to run a 5 km race to benefit from exercise.
As people age, the body naturally loses muscle mass and bone density, which makes getting around more difficult. Lower-impact activities such as walking or recumbent biking can help strengthen muscles, including the heart.
The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology Activity Guideline recommends that adults aged 65 years and older should perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more to see health-related improvements.
Since we all experience stress differently, test out various stress reduction techniques to find the ones best suited for you. People feel stress differently and react to it differently. More research is needed to determine how exactly stress relates to heart disease but stress may impact behaviors and factors that increase heart disease risk: high blood pressure, smoking and overeating to name a few. Some people may excessively drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes to ‘control’ their chronic stress; however these habits can increase blood pressure and may damage artery walls.
For example, reading reduces stress. Reading for as little as six minutes reduces stress levels by 60%, slowing heart rate, easing muscle tension and altering the state of mind.
Heart disease is the second leading cause of death for Canadian seniors, according to Statistics Canada. The good news is; you can make lifestyle choices to improve or maintain a healthy heart.