February is Heart Health Month. Heart disease used to be associated with older adults but with the increase of obesity, high blood pressure and stress, it is affecting younger adults more and more. In Canada, heart disease affects nearly 1.3 million people and is the second leading cause of death. The good news is that you can identify the risks and take action to lower your risk.
The Risk Factors and how to Reduce them:
- High Blood Pressure: Uncontrolled blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for heart disease and stroke.
- Take action: Have your blood pressure checked regularly and take the necessary steps to reduce it if necessary
- High Cholesterol: High cholesterol can also significantly increase your risk of heart disease.
- Take action: Make sure you have your cholesterol levels checked regularly and that you eat a healthy diet, manage your weight and exercise to keep cholesterol levels in check
- Diabetes: Uncontrolled blood sugar can damage heart vessels and nerves, thereby increasing your risk of heart disease
- Take action: Make sure you control your blood sugar if you are diabetic
- Obesity: Being overweight puts a significant strain on your health, including your heart. Even more concerning is that children are overweight now more than ever, setting them up for poor future health.
- Take action: Make modest changes that you can sustain to help reduce your weight. Extreme diets aren’t necessary and can often backfire. Work with an expert in food and nutrition to help you make better food choices that will improve your health for life.
- Inactivity: Most Canadians do not meet the 150 minutes of exercise recommended weekly. Physical activity keeps your heart healthy and can help manage stress levels.
- Take action: Just move! All it takes is regular walking to have to a significant impact on your health. You can even break the activity into 10-minute intervals!
- Smoking: Smoking damages blood vessels and can cause heart disease.
- Take action: If you smoke, talk to a healthcare professional for support and resources on quitting.
- Poor diet: Most Canadians do not get the recommended 5-10 servings of fruit and vegetables in their diet daily. Eating fruits and vegetables will ensure adequate intake of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants that help support healthy heart function.
- Take action: Make sure you PLAN to eat enough fruits and vegetables in the day. Incorporate leafy greens in your meals, take fruit for snacks and keep precut veggies handy for a healthy snack.
With a little bit of work, you can improve the health of your heart. Small changes can add up to big reductions in risk in the long-term so keep it simple and focus on making one small change at a time.