Gift yourself a healthy heart this Valentine's Day

The bad news? Heart disease is the second-leading cause of death in Canada. The good news? There are many ways to reduce your risk of heart disease—and enjoy a healthier lifestyle.

The statistics say it all. Heart disease is the second-leading cause of death in Canada. About 1 in 12 (or 2.4 million) Canadian adults age 20 and over live with diagnosed heart disease. Every hour, about 12 Canadian adults age 20 and over with diagnosed heart disease die.

The good news is that that there are many ways to reduce your risk of heart disease.

February marks Heart Month, and Dr. Mohammad Zia, Cardiologist at Michael Garron Hospital, says it’s a good reminder to make your heart health a priority.

“Heart disease is common, but preventable,” says Dr. Zia. “Diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol—and a family history—can all contribute to accelerating the development of coronary artery disease. Controlling these risk factors and being screened are important things that can be done to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Exercise and diet also do help in prevention." 

You can take charge of your heart health by making simple lifestyle changes. Christine Devine, Wellness Specialist at MGH, suggests the following top five tips for a healthy heart—and a healthy life:

  1. Make sure your diet is 80% colourful vegetables. Eating a variety of foods is an easy way to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy.
  2. Limit processed foods. Processed foods tend to be high in sugar, fat and salt, and lack fiber, vitamins and minerals. People whose diet is heavy in processed food have a higher risk of obesity, hypertension and blood sugar levels which can lead to heart disease and diabetes.
  3. Walk whenever and wherever you can. Regular walking can reduce the risk of a heart attack, help manage your weight and improve your mood.
  4. Laugh. Research shows that laughter improves overall cardiovascular health. Sometimes laughter really is the best medicine!
  5. Share time with those most important to you. Having good friends and a strong social support network can release stress and lower your blood pressure.  

“The best way to achieve wellness, whether specific to heart-health—or life in general—is through a holistic approach,” says Christine.