Did you know that heart-healthy living could prevent up to 80% of the cases of premature heart disease and stroke? Sounds great, but just what does heart-healthy living mean? Heart-healthy living involves understanding your risk, making healthy choices, and taking steps to reduce your chances of developing heart disease.
Understanding your risks
Factors that raise your risk of heart disease include:
• high blood pressure
• high cholesterol
• having diabetes or prediabetes
• being overweight or obese
• being physically inactive
• unhealthy eating habits
• being 45 or older for males or being 55 or older for females
• family history of early heart disease (a father or brother diagnosed before age 55 or a mother or sister diagnosed before age 65)
• history of preeclampsia (sudden rise in blood pressure along with too much protein in the urine during pregnancy) Each risk factor increases the chance of developing heart disease. The more risk factors a person has, the higher the risk. Some risk factors—such as our age and family medical history—are beyond our control, so it is particularly important to control the ones we can.
Here are some tips that will help you make healthier food choices:
• Limit the amount of processed foods you eat.
• Select brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, and include a variety of them in every meal.
• Eat protein-rich foods such as fish, lean meats, eggs, nuts, seeds, soy products, and legumes.
• Pick oils and foods that are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as vegetable oils (not coconut or palm), nuts (almonds, walnuts, pine nuts), avocados, tofu.
• Choose whole grains more often.
• Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
• Pick healthy plant-based fats, such as olive oil or canola oil, instead of animal fats, such as butter.
• Fill half your plate with vegetables and/or fruits, one-quarter of your plate with whole grain foods, and one-quarter of your plate with protein foods.
There are four main types of physical activity: aerobic, stretching, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening. Aerobic activity is the type that provides the greatest benefit to your heart and lungs. Any level of aerobic activity—light, moderate, or vigorous— can benefit your heart, but moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity done on a regular basis strengthens your heart muscle and improves your heart’s ability to pump blood to your lungs and throughout your body. This delivers greater blood flow to your muscles and raises the oxygen level in your blood. Examples of aerobic activities include:
• aerobic dancing and ballroom dancing
• bicycling, skateboarding, rollerblading, and jumping rope
• gardening, such as digging and hoeing
• hiking, walking, jogging, and running
• hockey, basketball, soccer, and tennis
• pushing a grocery cart around a store
Maintaining a healthy weight
Eating a healthy diet and being physically active will help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, but it may not be enough. Even at a healthy weight, excess fat around the waist can increase your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes—health issues that contribute to your risk of developing heart disease.
Smoking and health
Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of developing heart disease. You can find more information on how smoking affects health and the benefits of quitting in the article “Tobacco: What you need to know” on page 19. If you smoke and want to stop, your London Drugs pharmacists can advise you on products and strategies that can increase your chances of quitting successfully.
Stress can increase the risk of heart disease, as well as leading to anxiety and depression. But practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga and tai chi for just a few minutes each day can help you manage your stress in a healthy manner.
Heart disease is a very common problem, but you have the power to reduce your risk by making some heart-healthy choices. If you have any questions about heart health, your London Drugs pharmacists will be happy to answer them.
Read other health-related articles in our BetterCare Magazine here.