February is Heart Month. Let's show our hearts a little love. Do something healthy for your heart.
Why it matters
- Each year more than 350,000 Canadians are hospitalized for heart disease or stroke
- Up to 80% of premature heart disease and stroke is preventable by adopting healthy behaviours
- Nine in ten Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke
Source: Heart & Stroke Foundation
Take a pledge for heart health
If you smoke, make a plan to quit. 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.
The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests we try to keep our sugar intake to less than 6 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!)
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.
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 (7-8 for adult women, 8-10 for men). Eating the recommended amount of vegetables can help reduce your risk of many chronic diseases.
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.
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.
Did you know climbing stairs for 1 minutes burns 8 - 11 calories? That's high compared to other moderate intensity exercise. Choosing the stairs over an elevator or escalator can help you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, which is important in reducing your risk of heart disease (and it's great for your bone and joints, too!)
What do you want to do to love your heart? Cut down on alcohol? Train for that couch-to-5K? Walk to school once a week with your kids? Make a pledge and share it with your family and friends so they can support you in your effort.
More heart health resources
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: