February is all about the heart. Across Canada, physicians, advocates and fundraisers are reminding us that heart disease and stroke remain the leading causes of death and disability among Canadians. In fact, every 7 minutes a Canadian dies from heart disease or stroke. While it’s true that some people have a genetic predisposition to heart disease, adopting healthy behaviours can delay the onset of heart disease even in people with genetic risk factors by up to 14 years.
Try these 5 simple tips to keep your heart healthy:
1) Eat more plants. Canadian dietary guidelines recommend 7 servings of vegetables and/or fruit daily. That may seem like a lot of servings to eat in a day, but the reward is worth the effort: You can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by 20% just by eating more fruits and veggies. And a serving is likely smaller than you think—about half a cup, or the size of a medium-sized apple or orange.
2) Take a walk after dinner – and bring the family. When it comes to exercise and being active, evidence shows that every little bit helps. Creating habits around activities – even little things like walking after dinner or taking the stairs instead of the elevator – can improve your overall health. The less time we spend sitting, the healthier we are likely to be.
3) Choose healthy fats. Not all fats are created equal. Artificial fats, such as trans fats that are found in many processed foods, harden the arteries and increase your risk of heart disease. But there are lots of delicious healthy fats to incorporate into your diet, including olive oil, nut and vegetable oils, nuts and seeds and avocado.
4) Spend time with family and friends doing activities that you enjoy. Evidence shows that social interaction helps keep us healthier and reduces mortality rates. Even a short visit or phone call can help raise our spirits and keep us feeling connected and valued.
5) Reduce stress. Identify the causes of stress in your life and find ways to address these stressors. Whether it means attending therapy, changing habits or relationships that cause you distress or making time for more relaxation or self-care, reducing stress will have positive effects for your physical and emotional health.