Although the rate of heart disease has been decreasing in Canada, it remains the leading cause of death for those over the age of 55. While it’s true that advancing age puts people at risk, most of the other factors that increase the odds of a heart attack or stroke are diet- or lifestyle-related. The good news is that everyone, regardless of their age, can lower their chances of developing heart disease with these six simple steps.
1) Eat fruits and vegetables. The fibre in produce helps to lower cholesterol levels, and the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that all fruits and vegetables provide keep arteries strong and reduce blood pressure. Eat at least five servings each day and strive for variety. The best choices include leafy green and brightly coloured vegetables, such as spinach, carrots and sweet potatoes, as well as grapes, oranges and any type of berries.
2) Skip meats that are high in cholesterol-raising saturated fat, such as sausages, hamburger and most other cuts of beef. Eat fish instead. Any fish is healthy (as long as it’s not fried), but cold-water fish such as salmon, herring, rainbow trout and sardines have the greatest amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fat. Eating fish twice a week can help improve cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure.
3) Go a little nutty! Snack on a handful of raw almonds, walnuts or peanuts, instead of potato or corn chips. Nuts are a great source of protein, as well as heart-healthy fats. The fat in most chips will raise cholesterol, while nuts can help lower it.
4) Spend some quality time in the kitchen. Preparing meals from scratch is the most effective way to reduce sodium, and improve blood pressure. Examine food labels for sodium content, and strive for less than 2,400 mg per day. Skip the frozen dinners, canned soups and packaged rice, all of which are high in sodium. Instead, add some zip to meals with fresh or dried herbs, low salt seasoning mixes and lots of heart-healthy garlic.
5) Make half of grains consumed whole. In their latest revision to Canada’s Food Guide, Health Canada urges all individuals to add more whole grains to their diets. Foods made with whole grains have more vitamins and minerals, in addition to soluble fibre, which has been shown to decrease cholesterol. Replacing white bread, rice or pasta with whole-grain alternatives will help people meet their daily fibre goal of 20-35 grams, and it could help clear arteries of plaque build up.
6) Get moving! The most recent physical activity recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Canada suggest that all adults (including those over the age of 65) aim for at least 30-60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. Regular exercise is essential for anyone who wants to strengthen his or her heart, maintain a healthy weight and enjoy life! If the thought of spending that much time at the gym is daunting, consider everyday activities such as vacuuming, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, dancing or playing ball with grandchildren. Strive for a balance between structured “exercise” such as walking, swimming or biking and activities such as these each day.
FEBRUARY 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND
FEBRUARY 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER AND LOWER MAINLAND
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