We all know the importance of maintaining a healthy heart, yet almost one and a half million Canadians currently suffer from cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, there are a number of risk factors that can contribute to heart disease; fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to minimize or eliminate those risk factors.
While many of these measures may be common-sense suggestions you’ve already heard many times before, it never hurts to remind ourselves of the good we could be doing for our bodies. Or of the bad we shouldn’t be doing.
Do yourself a favour and keep these four tips in mind (and heart):
Enjoy a Heart-Healthy Diet
Eating a heart-healthy diet doesn’t have to be all kale and no candy. As long as the good outweighs the bad it’s okay to treat yourself once in a while. Some things you’ll want to include for their goodhearted benefits are items rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, flaxseed oil and chia seeds. Loaded with “good fats,” nuts such as walnuts and almonds have been shown to substantially reduce risk of heart disease when eaten in moderation. Fruits and vegetables like avocados, raspberries, red grapes, broccoli, asparagus and spinach all score good heart points and it’s also a good idea to load up your plate with chickpeas, yogurt, olive oil and dark chocolate (though maybe not at the same time).
Get the Blood Pumping
Your heart is a muscle and like most muscles it benefits from exercise. You don’t need to run a marathon or bench press a baby elephant to achieve that benefit though, you just need to move your body. If you’re new to working out, start with a brisk 30-minute daily walk. For more of a challenge, try cycling, running or circuit training to really get the blood pumping. Weight training, either with machines, free weights or your own body weight, is excellent for building muscle mass and burning fat and swimming is an excellent low-impact way to build cardiovascular strength.
Stress is not a friend to your body. While the exact relationship between stress and heart disease continues to be studied, prolonged stress may increase your blood cholesterol, your blood pressure and the narrowing of your arteries. The ways in which people respond to stress can also negatively impact their heart health: from smoking to alcohol abuse to binge eating. To reduce the effects of stress in your life, aim for healthier resolutions such as controlled breathing, meditation, yoga, exercise, conversing with friends, vacations or stress-managing supplements.
Opt for Antioxidants
An antioxidant-rich diet of fruits, vegetables and fish is a tasty tool for fighting free radicals and keeping your body healthy. In addition to a smart and satisfying healthy eating plan, there are also supplements you can take to increase your antioxidant intake. Supplements such as ubiquinol and Co Q10 are particularly good options when it comes to promoting heart health.
Want to spread the love? In addition to the four tips above, here are a few more things you can do for your heart:
- Get plenty of sleep
- Check your blood pressure regularly
- Avoid sitting for long periods of time without taking breaks
- Make every section the non-smoking section
- Keep your BMI in its healthy target range