There’s so much you can do – heart health is influenced by many simple lifestyle habits, that science shows can make a difference. With heart disease being amongst the biggest killers in Canada for most age groups, prevention is key – and it’s easier than you may think. According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, almost 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through healthy behaviours. From sleep to stress, food to movement, there are many heart-healthy lifestyle habits you should try, according to science.
Slow, deep breaths can influence your heart rate and blood flow in beneficial ways, says science. The simple advice to “take a deep breath” has been shown in studies to reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and improve blood sugar which are all important factors in heart disease.
Move more to help your heart, says research. Physical activity is even called a non-pharmaceutical option of treatment, by science. Controlling blood pressure can help decrease the incidence of stroke and heart failure. The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends you be physically active for at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of a minimum of 10 minutes. That sounds like a lot of exercise, but it’s not – you could do it easily with just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of activity.
Adults should get 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity. Here are some ideas to spark your excitement to move more and sit less:
Most of us don’t get enough sleep. Make sleep a priority – research has linked sleep with heart-health. A lower chance of heart trouble was found in those who got enough sleep in a study of over 10,000 adults. The lowest risk of heart disease was among those adults who slept about 8 hours per night. Do you stay up late? A post-midnight bedtime is linked with a 25% higher risk of heart disease, by science.
Salt is hiding in so many processed, convenience foods. Higher salt intakes can increase blood pressure. Eat more whole foods and increase physical activity to support healthy blood pressure. If you are currently taking blood pressure medications, it is important to work closely with your professional health care provider who can monitor your health and help with any required changes to medication as you adjust your lifestyle habits.
Current recommendations suggest a heart-healthy eating plan is one that increases the consumption of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and fish; replaces saturated fats with unsaturated fats; reduces consumption of sodium, cholesterol, refined carbohydrates, and sugar-sweetened beverages; and avoids trans-fats. Heart-healthy diets backed by science include the DASH, Mediterranean, and healthy vegetarian diets; however, the most important factor in your health – is you! Creating a healthy eating plan that works for your individual needs, likes, and health goals is important to your success. Working with a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, trained in nutrition can help you create an eating and healthy lifestyle plan that will work for you.
A study found work-stress increases your risk of heart disease. Investigating the health of over 100,000 individuals, scientists found higher rates of death from heart disease among men with job strain than those without. As for women, more women are dying from heart disease than ever before, with evidence suggesting a concerning increase in heart attacks among younger women, aged 35-54.
Do you sit a lot? Sedentary behaviour, such as working at a desk for long hours, is among the leading risk factors for heart disease that you can do something about! Each hour of the day, get up and move: walk to the farther bathroom to get a few more steps in, or stand at your desk and do a few stretches. Every little bit of movement helps.
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Short sleep is associated with higher prevalence and increased predicted risk of cardiovascular diseases in an Iranian population: Fasa PERSIAN Cohort Study. Sci Rep 2020 Mar; 10: 4608.
Take a deep, resisted, breath. J Am Heart Assoc 20201 Jun;10:e022203
The evolution of the heart-healthy diet for vascular health: a walk-through time. Vascular Medicine 2020 Apr; 25(2): 184-193.
The physiological effects of slow breathing in the healthy human. Breathe (Sheff) 2017 Dec; 13(4): 298-309.
Twenty year trends and sex differences in young adults hospitalized with acute myocardial infarction: the ARIC Community Surveillance Study. Circulation 2019 Feb 19; 139(8): 1047-1056.
Work stress and risk of death in men and women with and without cardiometabolic disease: a multicohort study. The Lancet 2018 Sept 1; 6(9): 705-713.
Contributed by Allison Tannis
Known for her deliciously geeky words, Allison’s articles and books are read around the world by those curious about where to find the most delicious (and nutritious) places to stick their forks. More at allisontannis.com. Follow @deliciouslygeeky.