February is known as “heart” month, so prioritize your monthly list of things to do to include caring for yourself and caring for your heart. You cannot share your heart with others on Valentine’s Day if you do not care for it and maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle. So, how can you ensure that you heart is strong enough and healthy enough to withstand the poke of Cupid’s arrow next Sunday?
Some risk factors for heart disease cannot be altered, but many can be modified by simple lifestyle changes. The major factors you cannot change include age and family history. The risks you can minimize or eliminate include:
- High blood pressure increase’s the heart’s workload, causing the heart to enlarge and weaken over time. When high blood pressure co-exists with other risk factors, the risk of heart problems increases immensely.
- Unhealthy cholesterol levels.
- Lack of physical activity. A regular exercise regime can help protect anyone against heart disease, and is also beneficial in controlling some of the other risk factors associated with cardiac problems.
- Use of tobacco products. A smoker’s risk of heart attack is 2 to 3 times that of a non-smoker.
- Obesity. People who are more than 30 percent over their ideal body weight are more likely to develop heart disease even if no other risk factors are present.
- Diabetes seriously increases the risk of developing heart attacks. But, heart disease may be avoided or delayed by controlling other risk factors that work in combination with diabetes.
- Stress can contribute to the development of heart disease. People that are subjected to constant stress also tend to indulge in other unhealthy activities such as overeating, alcohol use, and smoking.
Everyone knows how to eliminate smoking and pursue regular physical activity, but many folks struggle with “healthy eating habits”, and that has a significant impact on several of the risk factors for heart disease. You can obtain a copy of the Canada Food Guide by calling 1-866-225-0709, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or downloading it from their website at https://www.hc-sc.gc.ca, but here is the condensed version of what it means to eat healthy.
- Eat high-fibre foods everyday – include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils
- Use as little salt as you can – replace it with herbs, spices, or other natural flavours
- Cook with little or no fat – if necessary, choose a vegetable oil (olive, canola, corn, sunflower) and use as little as you can
- Eat less meat, particularly red meat – limit your portion to the size of a deck of cards, choose lean cuts, remove skin/visible fat, and try low-fat cooking methods
- Choose low-fat dairy products (read your labels carefully!)
- Avoid high-fat desserts and snacks – in moderation, you can treat yourself once in a while – such as on Valentine’s Day
Finally, just to lighten the mood, here is a story of how love deepens with time. An elderly couple drove down a country road for several miles, not saying a word. An earlier discussion had led to an argument and neither of them wanted to concede their position. As they passed a barnyard of mules, goats and pigs, the husband asked sarcastically, “Relatives of yours?” “Yep,” the wife replied, “in-laws.”