Top 10 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in Canada. In honor of heart month this February, here are the top 10 things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease.
The first 6 recommendations have to do with adopting a healthier lifestyle. You don’t need to change everything overnight – in fact it’s easier to stick with small changes. Commit to making one change every week or every month.
Lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Belly fat is particularly bad; if your waist measures more than 40 inches for men (35 for Chinese/South Asians) or 35 inches for women (32 for Chinese/South Asians) you are at increased risk.
Eat more vegetables and fruit. 5-10 servings a day is recommended. This is easy to do if you eat 1 or 2 with each meal or snack.
Reduce salt intake. Most people consume way too much sodium on a daily basis – this is mostly from eating in restaurants and buying processed food. Cook your own food more often and wean yourself off using the salt shaker.
Increase your activity level. Exercise and sports are great, but gentler activities like gardening are also beneficial. Try to walk more – when you go to the store park at the back of the parking lot – as a bonus it will be way less crowded.
Quit smoking. We all know smoking is bad and we all know it’s hard to quit. Stop making excuses – with a little motivation and support you can do it. There are many programs and resources available to help you quit.
Watch your alcohol intake. Too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure. Limit yourself to 1 or 2 drinks per day, up to a weekly maximum of 9 drinks for women and 14 for men.
The next 3 recommendations are about knowing your own health risks, being aware of what’s going on in your body and controlling your health conditions. Don’t avoid going to the doctor and don’t ignore your doctor’s advice – this will not make your health problems disappear. Take responsibility for your health – after all it’s your life.
Know your blood cholesterol levels. Many people with high blood cholesterol don’t know they have it!
Ask your doctor if you should be tested, especially if you are a man over 40, a woman over 50, or if you have other health conditions or risk factors. If you have high blood cholesterol listen to your doctor’s advice
on how to manage it and take steps to improve your lifestyle.
Know your blood pressure. About 20% of Canadians have high blood pressure but only half of them know it – get it checked today! 120 over 80 is normal, while 140 over 90 is considered high. If you have high blood pressure ask your doctor how to lower it and – you guessed it – work on improving your lifestyle.
Control your diabetes. If you have diabetes your risk of heart disease is increased AND you are likely to have other risk factors or health problems. It’s very important that you properly control your blood sugar levels.
Learn how to cope with stress and anger. Stress can increase your risk of heart disease and make it harder to lead a healthy lifestyle. Poorly managed anger (e.g. aggression & violence, yelling, bottling up feelings, getting defensive) is primarily a risk factor for men. Make sure you lead a balanced life, taking time for yourself and participating in stress-reducing activities. Learn some productive anger management strategies like directing your anger toward to the problem rather than taking it out on a person – it’s much more productive.
Guest article written by Megan. Megan is a medical librarian who is passionate about Olympic
Weightlifting, Crossfit, paleolithic nutrition & health. Visit her blog Practical Paleolithic Nutrition in a Processed Food World at http://paleo4health.blogspot.com/.
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