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6 Nice Things You Can Do For Your Heart This Year

01/08/2016 04:15 EST | Updated 01/08/2017 05:12 EST
JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images
Caucasian girl making heart shape with hands

By Daphna Steinberg, a dietitian at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Here are six changes you can make to your lifestyle to help out your heart (and other parts of you, too). Try even just one to give your heart a little love this year.

1. Quit smoking.

If you smoke, make a plan to quit. (And if you don't smoke, don't start.) Within months, quitting smoking reduces your risk of a heart attack, improves breathing and helps circulation. After a year of quitting, your risk of heart disease and smoking-related heart attack is cut in half. Start by making a quit plan. Need help? Check out sunnybrook.ca/quitsmoking or talk to your health-care provider.

2. Cut down on sugar.

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests we try to keep our sugar intake to less than six teaspoons a day (not including naturally occurring sugars, like in fruits). Eating too much sugar has been linked to cardiovascular disease and other health issues. Do you put two sugars in your tea? Try cutting back to one. (Even better, none!) Keep an eye out for hidden sugars. Cereals, yogurts, salad dressings and sauces can often have a wild amount of added sugar. Choose these items with less sugar (or use less dressing when tossing your greens!).

3. Add an extra veggie to each lunch.

Cut up some celery sticks to eat with your sandwich, or add broccoli to your pizza. Sneaking an extra vegetable in at lunchtime can help you reach Canada's Food Guide recommended servings of vegetables/fruits (seven to eight for adult women,eight to 0 for men). Eating the recommended amount of vegetables can help reduce your risk of many chronic diseases.

4. Try a meatless Monday (or at least one meatless meal per week)

Have one vegetarian meal each week that includes legumes like beans, chickpeas or lentils. Legumes are packed with protein and fibre, and are lower in saturated fats than most meats. Eating more legumes can help manage diabetes and improve cholesterol levels. Need inspiration? Try this three-bean chili.

5. Add three 10-minute chunks of activity to each day.

We know you've heard this one: adding daily activity to your lifestyle has many health benefits. But remember, daily activity doesn't mean you have to spend hours at the gym. Try to add three 10-minute chunks of medium activity. Park farther away from the doors and briskly walk, get off the bus a stop early, have a walking meeting or take the stairs. Check out Canada's Physical Activity Guidelines for more ideas.

6. Take electronics out of the bedroom.

To improve your sleep quality, make your bedroom a no-phone zone. Leave phones, TVs, tablets or other things with bright screens out in the living room. Actually, studies show that avoiding these devices one hour before bedtime can improve your sleep quality, leaving you better able to make healthy choices the next day.

Read more heart health tips and information from Sunnybrook experts at health.sunnybrook.ca

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