Did you know?
- 9 in 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
- Up to 8 in 10 cases of premature heart disease and stroke are preventable through healthy lifestyle habits.
February is Heart Month in Canada and to close it out, here are 8 tips for getting and staying heart healthy:
Assess your risk level
Take the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Risk Assessment for a personalized health report identifying risk factors within your control and how you can minimize them.
47,000 Canadians die prematurely each year from smoking, and nearly 8,000 deaths annually are linked to second-hand smoke exposure. Quitting immediately reduces your risk of a heart attack. Although a physical and psychological challenge, but it can be easier with a concrete plan and support from family, friends, co-workers and a healthcare professional. Visit the Smoking and Tobacco page of the Heart and Stroke Foundation's website for more information and resources on quitting.
Eat more fibre
Eating more foods high in fibre (i.e. legumes, fruit and vegetables, whole grains, etc.) can help with digestion, maintaining a healthy body weight and reducing your risk for heart disease. A healthy adult needs 25 to 38 grams a day, but most Canadians are getting less than half this amount - surveys show the average Canadian is only consuming about 14 grams per day.
Local produce is often fresher, more flavourful and contains more nutrients than fruits and vegetables that have taken a long journey in a truck. As a bonus, you're also supporting your local farmers and small businesses!
Maintain a healthy waistline
Even if you are at a healthy body weight, how your body stores fat can have a negative effect on your heart health. Those with excess fat around the midsection can be at higher risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease and type-2 diabetes. In particular, men with a waistline of more than 40 inches and women with a waistline of more than 35 inches are at substantially increased risk of heart disease. Your waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) together are useful indicators to help your healthcare professional assess your risk of heart disease and stroke. Learn more about taking these measurements yourself here. Get into the habit of an annual physical and speak to your doctor about maintaining or achieving a healthy waistline and weight that is right for you.
Try to incorporate some form of physical activity into your daily routine. Just 30 to 60 minutes a day can lower your chances of heart disease. Pick activities you enjoy so you're more likely to stick with them. Even small changes, like taking the stairs at work, or choosing to walk instead of taking the car, can add up over time to make a significant impact.
Too much stress can lead to elevated blood pressure and cholesterol which increases your risk of serious medical emergencies such as a heart attack or stroke. Ongoing stress can also lead to unhealthy ways of coping such as overeating, excessive alcohol consumption or smoking.
There are a number of ways you can manage your stress, including daily exercise. Learn more about recognizing and handling stress here. You may also consider seeking advice from a mental health professional for additional ways to help you cope.
Spot the warning signs.
There are the signs that most people recognize as symptoms such as chest pain and discomfort, sweating, upper body discomfort (neck, jaw, shoulders, arms, back), nausea, shortness of breath and lightheadedness. If you experience these symptoms, call 9-1-1 or see a doctor immediately. However, women can experience a heart attack without any chest pressure. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.
Making small changes to your lifestyle can have a big impact on your overall health and reduce your chance of developing heart disease. For more information and resources, visit heartandstroke.ca.