Ten simple steps to having a healthy heart

Agassiz Community Health offers ideas for living a longer life

Even though Heart and Stroke Month is drawing to an end, your Agassiz Community Health Centre will continue to focus its attention on improving the heart health of the people in this community.

Heart disease may be a leading cause of death in Canada but your best defense to prevent it is to control the risk factors that can lead to coronary artery disease. Here are 10 simple measures to help you get started.

1. Take charge of your eating habits. Eat a balanced diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruit and whole grains.

2. Pick heart healthy fats. Reduce your total fat intake and choose the type of fat you eat by replacing saturated and trans fats with polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats. (The heart healthy fats are found in fatty fish like salmon and in sunflower, canola, and olive oils).

3. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Cutting back even 100 calories a day will make a difference by lessening the strain on your heart, lowering blood pressure, and reducing cholesterol.

4. Have your cholesterol levels checked. High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.

5. Quit smoking. Smoking builds up the rate at which plaque builds up in artery walls. It also increases blood pressure and heart rate. Your doctor, nurse practitioner, or health nurse can provide you with options to quit.

6. Find out your blood sugar level. If you have diabetes, you have a greater risk of developing heart disease. Talk to your doctor if you don’t know what your blood sugar level is.

7. Check your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk for heart disease because it puts extra strain on your heart. When you shop, check the sodium content on processed, packaged, and snack foods such as crackers, nachos, and potato chips. Limit your intake of high sodium foods.

8. Adopt an active lifestyle. Try to get 30 – 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily. If you choose activities that you enjoy, you are more likely to stick with them.

9. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Studies show that drinking more than a moderate amount of alcohol has a direct toxic effect on the heart. Heavy drinking, over time, damages the heart. Also, the older you are, the body is less efficient in metabolizing alcohol. Moderation is considered no more than two drinks daily for men and one drink daily for women because women and men metabolize alcohol differently.

10. Reduce mental stress. Although a small amount of stress is healthy and a normal part of life, chronic stress can put extra strain on the body leading to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.

Every seven minutes, someone in Canada suffers a heart attack. Avoid becoming a statistic by managing your risk of heart disease.