Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada, and about 1 in 12 (2.4 million) Canadian adults aged 20 and over live with diagnosed heart disease. There are numerous risk factors for developing heart disease, some of which include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and tobacco use. Today, we’ll provide you with 6 steps you can take to help prevent heart disease.
Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease
While there are certain risk factors that are out of your control such as your age, sex, race and family history, some lifestyle factors can be changed in order to lessen your risk of heart disease.
1. Quit Smoking and Using Tobacco
One of the best things you can do for your heart health is to stop smoking or using tobacco. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Even avoiding secondhand smoke can help. Cigarette smoking raises your blood pressure and heart rate and puts you at risk of heart attack and stroke. The risk of heart disease drops in as little as a day after quitting, and after a year without smoking, the risk of heart disease drops to about half that of a smoker.
2. Keep an Eye on Your Health
Keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control is very important as both are linked to increased risk of heart disease. Make sure to attend annual checkups with your doctor and keep them informed of any changes you may be experiencing. If you aren’t tested or screened for high blood pressure or cholesterol, you may not know whether you have these conditions.
3. Eat a Heart-Healthy, Balanced Diet
Eating a low-fat, high-fibre diet is recommended. This type of diet includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains. Try to limit foods high in sodium (no more than 6g of salt a day which is about 1 teaspoonful), added sugars and saturated fats.
Saturated fats increase the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood. These foods include:
- Fatty meat (lamb chops) and processed meat (sausages, burgers, bacon, etc.)
- Butter, lard, margarine, etc.
- Coconut and palm oils
- Full fat dairy products (cream, milk, yoghurt, cheese)
- Pastries and pies
Unsaturated fats can help increase levels of good cholesterol in your blood as well as reduce blockage in your arteries. Foods that are high in unsaturated fats include oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds, sunflower, olive and vegetable oils.
4. Maintain an Active Lifestyle
Getting regular exercise is important and has many benefits, including strengthening your heart and improving your circulation. Exercising can also help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure, all of which can lower your risk of heart disease.
5. Manage Your Stress
Stress is linked to heart disease and can raise your blood pressure. Extreme stress can even be a cause of a heart attack. Sometimes people cope with stress in ways that are bad for the heart such as overeating, smoking and heavy drinking. Managing stress looks different for everyone but ways to do so include exercising, reading, meditating, listening to music and focusing on something calm and peaceful.
6. Get Enough Quality Sleep
Not getting enough sleep can put you at a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, obesity and depression. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you often have trouble sleeping, or you feel like you have been getting enough sleep and you’re still tired throughout the day, speak with your healthcare provider to see if you need to be evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea (a condition that can increase your risk of heart disease).
Contact Us for Help
If you think you may have sleep apnea or are worried about heart disease, PulseAir Heart & Lung Centre can help. Learn more about what we do on our website or contact us if you would like to schedule a sleep or cardiology consultation.