February is Heart Month, making it the perfect time to review your risk factors, take a look at your diet and share heart-health related lifesaving information with your friends and family.
What is heart disease, and why is it a concern?
Heart disease most commonly refers to the buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries that could lead to a heart attack, heart failure, or death. It is one of the leading causes of death in Canada. According to the Government of Canada, approximately 2.6 million Canadian adults have been diagnosed with heart disease. It is estimated that every hour, 14 Canadian adults diagnosed with heart disease die. Smoking and conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity can increase your risk of heart disease.
[For those following this blog from The Bahamas: Heart Disease remains the top cause of death in the nation according to the Health Minister ]
What can you do to reduce YOUR risks?
The World Health Organization believes that as many as 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through controllable risk factors.
The 5 Controllable Risk Factors:
High Blood Pressure
Quit Smoking - Smoking DOUBLES your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. If you (or someone you love) currently smokes and wants to stop, seek support and/or support resources from your healthcare team. When you stop smoking, you will experience immediate health benefits, and after 5 years smoke-free, your risks are reduced to those of a non-smoker.
Stay Active - It’s always a good idea to be physically active! The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada recognizes physical inactivity as a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Adults should aim to engage in physical activity for a total of 150 mins (2.5 hours) per week. Physical activity helps prevent heart disease and stroke by lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels, weight management, and more! Before starting a physical activity program, speak to your healthcare provider to discuss what is right for you.
Focus on Healthy Eating -
What do you notice about the first four controllable risk factors? They can all be related to diet! A healthy plant-based diet, high in fibre from foods such as whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables, combined with a moderate amount of lean proteins and healthy fats, can support healthy weight loss, reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce your risk for diabetes. Reducing your sodium intake and limiting your intake of added sugars can also help you control your risks.
Heart Month is the perfect time to start thinking about the foods you eat and make more heart-healthy choices. Here are 5 examples of foods that are healthy for your heart:
Apples - Apples are a rich source of the water-soluble fibre pectin and provide a host of beneficial polyphenols. Foods rich in pectin can support the reduction of total LDL cholesterol. Apples also contain quercetin in their brightly coloured skin. Quercetin is known to have antioxidant properties that have the potential to provide heart-protective benefits.
Avocados - An avocado contains more blood pressure-lowering potassium than a banana (per serving). Avocados also provide a source of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, which can support the reduction of blood triglyceride levels. Add a slice or two of avocado to your sandwich, veggie omelet, or salad.
Blueberries - Blueberries are a rich source of flavour, fibre, vitamin C, and beneficial antioxidants. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (May 2019) suggests that eating 150g of blueberries daily can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15%. The study also pointed out that previous studies show that people who regularly eat blueberries have a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease thanks to their anthocyanin content.
Salmon - Fatty fish like salmon contain a beneficial antioxidant called astaxanthin that helps prevent free radicals from damaging the cells of your body. Salmon is also an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to reduce both blood pressure and the risk of blood clotting. Fatty acids like Omega-3 also help slow the buildup of plaques in your arteries and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Tomatoes - Tomatoes are a rich source of vitamins C and E, potassium, and antioxidants called flavonoids and lycopene, which help reduce free radicals that can damage the cells of your body. Lycopene also helps lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol while also lowering your blood pressure. Adding garlic and olive oil to your tomato-based sauces will greatly enhance the tomato’s heart-healthy benefits.
Eating Healthy For Your Heart - Available on Amazon