You know the old saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And it couldn’t be truer when it comes to heart health, because a healthy lifestyle helps prevent 80% of premature deaths caused by heart disease (including heart attack and heart failure) and strokes. Here are 5 tips to keep your heart healthy.
Tip #1: Watch what you eat!
Canada’s Food Guide underwent an overhaul in January 2019. It now places more emphasis on eating fruits and vegetables, plant-based proteins, and whole grains. These recommendations are based in large part on the Mediterranean diet which, according to many studies, correlates with a lower risk of heart disease.
One simple way to improve your diet is to cook most of your own meals, as this gives you more control over the quality and quantity of the foods you eat. It also helps you reduce the amount of highly processed foods on your plate, e.g., chicken nuggets, frozen pizza, store-bought muffins, and industrial baked goods. While such foods are designed to make your life easier, they are generally low in nutrients and rich in salt, saturated fats, or sugar—all of which are harmful to the heart when consumed too often.
Tip #2: Be active every day
To keep your heart healthy, experts recommend you do at least 2 ½ hours of physical activity per week. The good news is you don’t have to do three long gym workouts to achieve this goal; simply using your day-to-day routine or household chores to be active at least 20 minutes a day can do the trick. For example:
- Go for a walk with a colleague during your lunch break
- Take the stairs instead of riding the elevator
- Dance while you vacuum
- If you only have a few items to pick up at the grocery store, go there on foot. The bags will provide a good weight workout on your walk home.
- Go play outside with your kids
Tip #3: Aim for a healthy weight as opposed to trying to slim down
A healthy weight and the image of the tall, slim women you see in the media are two completely different things. Your healthy weight is actually a range of weight that is acceptable for your height. The best way to figure out your healthy weight is to calculate your body mass index (BMI).
If your BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, your weight represents a low health risk. For example, a healthy weight for a woman who is 1.63 m (5 foot 4 inches) tall would be between 50 kg and 66 kg (110 lb. and 145 lb.).
The way excess fat is distributed on your body is also related to various health risks, including the risk of heart disease. For example, if you tend to have more body fat around your midsection, your risk is higher. The waist recommendation for women is less than 88 cm (35 inches) and less than 102 cm (40 inches) for men.
Tip #4: Avoid tobacco and cannabis
Smoking—whether tobacco or cannabis—is bad for your health, as combustion is the main source of toxic molecules for your body.
If you don’t smoke, ask your friends and family not to smoke in your presence.
If you do smoke, ask your pharmacist for advice on how to quit. They can prescribe a nicotine replacement therapy and help you in your efforts to butt out for good.
Tip #5: Look inwards to reduce your stress
To reduce your stress levels, you need to start by identifying the cause, then determining whether you have any control over the situation. This will help you to take the necessary action. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. For example, if your stress is money-related, a financial planner can help. Or if you are experiencing work-related stress, a colleague may be able to help.
When you are unable to eliminate the source of the stress, try learning techniques to manage your stress. Relaxing activities can also do you a world of good: breathing or relaxation exercises, meditation, yoga, etc.
If you have questions about the health of your heart, ask your pharmacist. He or she can help you take steps to improve your lifestyle, particularly if you want to lose weight or quit smoking. In addition, a nutritionist can help you improve your diet.