February is Heart Month!
February is heart month, thus we will be focusing most of our posts in February on cardiovascular/heart disease prevention, heart-healthy exercises, diets, and other tips to help you improve your heart health! We will start by providing you a quick introduction to what heart disease is, what the risk factors associated with it are, and how to prevent it.
What is heart disease exactly?
Heart disease is the narrowing or blockage of blood vessel leading to chest pains or a heart attack. How does a blood vessel become narrow or blocked? A healthy artery is flexible (elastic) and strong. Narrowing begins when the inner wall is damaged and becomes a place for cholesterol, calcium and other substances to build up. This build up accumulates to a sticky, fatty substance called plaque limiting the blood flow through the artery.
What causes the inner wall damage?
Studies have shown that high cholesterol levels, hypertension, cigarette smoking and high sugar levels all can cause damage to the inner artery wall. Some risk factors for heart-disease are, smoking, lack of exercise, unhealthy diet, being overweight or obese, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and stress. However, it is also important to note that our risk for heart disease can also be determined by some biological and socio-economic factors. “These factors can include age, family history, income and access to healthy foods and physical activity where we work, live and play. Additionally, pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can increase our risk of developing heart disease” (Government of Canada, 2018).
How to prevent heart disease?
Improving your diet: Consuming a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes will support a healthy cardiovascular system. These plant foods contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, are high in fibre and phytonutrients. Ideally, 1/3 of a heart healthy diet will consist of raw whole plant foods. Animal based omega-3 fats such as krill oil has been shown to support a healthy cardiovascular system as well.
Living an active life: People who do not exercise regularly are at greater risk of having heart disease.The heart is the strongest muscle in the body and all muscles should be exercised daily. A brisk walk for 30 minutes to an hour every day will benefit the heart muscle greatly! We also encourage you to incorporate sports, or activities like dancing in your routine to help support a healthy heart function and in result, a healthy heart!
Quit smoking: Smoking is known to increase blood pressure and contributes to the development of blocked arteries, putting you at higher risk of heart disease. Hence, quitting smoking will help reduce your risk of having heart disease.
The government of Canada website states that various initiatives are being taken to help make the healthier choice a little easier and more accessible for all Canadians by investing in programs like Break it Off, Run to Quit, Don’t Change Much, APPLE Schools and Kid Food Nation. If you need help with quitting smoking, or becoming more physically active, and becoming educated about healthy eating habits we encourage you to participate in these initiatives. Find out more information by going to: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/news/2018/02/minister_s_message-heartmonth-february2018.html.