While most of us think that cancer is the #1 cause of death in Canada, we are mistaken- it’s heart disease. Heart disease is most common in males, largely attributed to family history, and correlated with sedentary lifestyle factors. Heart disease increases exponentially beyond 35 years of age and the more risk factors we have (i.e. male, obesity, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, etc.) the greater risk heart disease poses. We’ve all heard someone say it- “diet and exercise is key”. Truly- this is the recipe for health. I wouldn’t lie to you!
As we age, we accumulate a plaque-like substance inside the arteries, making the heart work harder to circulate blood throughout the body. This increased resistance is commonly reflected in a blood pressure reading. Us women are a bit luckier when it comes to heart disease. Research has shown that estrogen (a female sex hormone) works to protect the inside of the lumen (aka our arteries) and helps prevent the buildup of plaque-like substances that cause blockages and lead to heart disease. Women are not entirely in the clear however, as the risk for heart disease increases after menopause when estrogen levels decrease.
If heart disease is in your family, or your lifestyle choices lead you to believe you are at greater risk, start with these simple steps:
- Increase aerobic activity
- Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 150 mins/week of moderate- to vigorous- intensity exercise in 10-minute bouts or more. Sound unattainable? Start by simply doing MORE aerobic activity than what you’re currently doing (i.e. parking farther away in a parking lot, going for a walk, swimming, etc.)
- Decrease saturated/hydrogenated fats in your diet
- Those grocery store donuts and commercial baked goods may taste delicious but, over time, will reap havoc on heart health.
- Increase polyunsaturated fat (Omega’s) and dietary fiber
- While Omega-3 vitamins are commonly marketed as “good for the heart”, you can get adequate intake of the heart healthy fatty acid through foods like salmon and cod.
- Monitor your blood pressure
- While blood pressure is not the ‘end all be all’ tool in monitoring circulatory system performance, it sure gives us a glimpse. Normal blood pressure is typically 120/80 mmHg. If you have hypertension or pre-hypertension, try the above-mentioned heart healthy tips for decreasing blood pressure the non-prescription way!