Your heart beats approximately 100,000 times per day and is arguably the hardest working muscle in your body.
This Heart Month, we look at 5 ways you can make healthy lifestyle choices. Here are tips on how you can show your heart some love:
1. Eat well
According to Heart & Stroke Foundation, 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented by the lifestyle choices that we make. A large part of our health can be attributed to our eating habits. Here are some tips for eating healthier:
- Aim to eat 7-10 servings of vegetables and fruit a day
- Eat a variety of foods that contain protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals
- Reduce daily salt intake which will help lower blood pressure
- Minimize sugar intake which will help with heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood cholesterol
- Avoid processed and packaged foods
- Cook at home more often
Choosing healthier food options is a lifestyle change and something you and your whole family can enjoy.
2. Stay active
Regular physical activity can dramatically lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Exercise can also play a role in preventing obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer. Here are some tips to getting more physically active:
- Join your local gym and take advantage of the classes that are included with your membership. Classes include aerobics, body pump, yoga, Pilates and indoor cycling
- Get off the bus a few blocks before your usual stop and walk home
- Park the car further away from where you need to be
- Go for a walk during your lunch hour
- Take the stairs instead of using the elevator or escalator
It is recommended that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week.
3. Quit smoking
Did you know that 20 minutes after not smoking, your body will notice a difference? Your blood pressure and heart rate will return to normal after 20 minutes. Within 8 hours of nicotine withdrawal, your body is able to clear the carbon monoxide from your bloodstream. Here are some tips to help you kick your cigarette habit to the curb:
- Avoid things and situations that may trigger your cigarette craving
- If you feel a craving coming on, tell yourself to delay it by 10 minutes. Try to distract yourself from smoking during that time period
- Distract yourself by chewing on sugarless gum, raw veggies or something crunchy
- Get support by joining a stop-smoking program
It is not easy to kick a habit. It is important to remind yourself that by eliminating smoking, you will feel better and healthier and you will save your loved ones from second hand smoke.
4. Get proper rest
Getting a good night’s rest will affect your mood, energy level and your health. Sleep helps your body heal faster which in turn will help your heart. Here are some tips to get your best rest:
- Increase bright light exposure during the day and reduce blue light exposure in the evening
- Avoid stimulants late in the evening such as caffeine and alcohol
- Reduce long naps during the day
- Turn off electronic items an hour before going to sleep
- Be consistent. Stick to a sleep schedule even on weekends
Getting a good night’s rest should be a priority. Not getting enough quality sleep can have a negative impact on our health and on our heart.
5. Be around family and friends
According to Statistics Canada, the possible health benefits of social interactions are a reduced risk of mortality and depression with the added benefits of better cognitive health and health-related behaviours. Having social support and maintaining close relationships are an important part of life and successful aging. Here are some ways to make new friends or maintain the relationships you already have:
- Join an activity group such as a book club, knitting circle or recreational sports team
- Volunteer at your local community centre
- Work as a Senior Companion providing care to other seniors
- Plan weekly or monthly meals or activities with your family
- Call your family or friends to catch up
These are some lifestyle changes that you can make to improve the health of your heart. Remember that it’s about gradually incorporating the changes and adapting it to your lifestyle. Try some of these tips today. Your heart will thank you.