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A Guide to a Healthy Heart

Keeping a healthy heart is the cornerstone of overall wellness. Implementing simple heart healthy habits and educating yourself on the risks for heart disease is the best way that you can look after your ticker!

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

  • Male over 40 years old
  • Female over 50 years old
  • Post-menopausal female
  • Personal history of heart disease, high blood pressure, and/or diabetes
  • Waist circumference of more than 94 cm (37 inches) for men; and more than 80 cm (31.5 inches) for women
  • Smoking
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Family history of heart disease or stroke

What does it mean if I have one or more of the risk factors?

Don’t panic!! If you have one or more of the risk factors for heart disease it simply means that you should be monitoring your heart health more closely with your doctor and making sure that you incorporate heart healthy habits every day. For personalized testing and heart health management plan speak to your naturopathic or medical doctor.

What kind of testing is done to monitor heart health?

Blood Pressure – a simple test used to monitor heart health. Ideally your blood pressure should be 120/80 mmHg. If it is too low, your body may not be receiving enough blood and oxygen to function at an ideal level, which can leave you feeling dizzy and fatigued. If your blood pressure is too high, then your heart and blood vessels may be under more stress than is optimal for their function.

Lipid Profile – blood work is done to screen and monitor the levels of different fats (ie. triglycerides, cholesterol) in your blood, which is a good indicator of your heart health and heart disease risk. Screening blood work should be completed on everyone with at least one risk factor; in Ontario it is standard practice to perform this test at your annual check-up.

To optimize your heart health, you want to aim to keep:

Lipids

Ideal Blood Level

Total Cholesterol Less than 5.0 mmol/L
Triglycerides Less than 1.7 mmol/L
LDL-Cholesterol (“Bad” cholesterol) Less than 3.0 mmol/L

**If you have diabetes or a history of heart disease, heart attack or stroke, you want to keep this number less than 2.0 mmol/L

Non-HDL Cholesterol Less thank 2.6 mmol/L
HDL-Cholesterol (“Good” cholesterol) Greater than 1.6 mmol/L
Total Cholesterol/HDL-C Ratio Less than 4.0

Blood Glucose – high blood sugar (glucose) contribute to inflammation in the body and increase the risk of heart disease. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels affect your entire body and prevent your organs from functioning properly; the heart, eyes, kidneys, and nerves are especially affected. Blood work for fasting glucose and HbA1C should be done to monitor blood glucose levels.

Body Weight & Measurements – as mentioned above in Risk Factors the measurement around your waist at the level of your belly button (waist circumference) can be a predictor of heart disease. Generally speaking, an apple-shaped body has an increased risk because the waist circumference is larger. A high waist circumference typically means that there is more fat being stored around the organs. This increases the stress on the organs, including the heart. It is important to maintain a healthy weight to reduce the stress put on your body by excess fat.

Lifestyle Factors – last, but definitely not least, lifestyle factors could arguably be the most important aspect of heart health. Diet, exercise and stress levels have a huge impact on your health and are, luckily, often the ones that we have most control over. Eating a healthy diet, getting 30 minutes of exercise per day and learning how to cope with stress are game changers when in come to a healthy heart!

Prevention

Incorporate as many of these heart healthy habits into your daily routine:

  • Exercise at least 30 minutes per day. Walking for 30 minutes can do wonders!
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get your rest. Aim for 7-8 hours a night.
  • Manage your stress. Find a coping method that works for you.
  • Check out the Mediterranean diet! One of my favourites for a healthy heart.

Foods to avoid:

  • Processed foods
  • Refined carbohydrates – sugar, white breads, pasta, and rice
  • Sweetened beverages – pop, juice, alcoholic beverages
  • Saturated & trans fats – processed/packaged food, commercial baked goods, shortening, margarine, fast food, processed meats, red meat

Foods to include:

  • Aim for 8-10 servings of vegetables and 2-3 servings of fruit per day. Eat a wide variety and include as many colours as your can. 
  • Berries
  • Fiber – vegetables, oatmeal
  • Olive oil (1-2 tbsp/day)
  • Omega-3 fats – fatty fish (salmon, herring, sardines), flax seeds, walnuts, chia seeds
  • Whole eggs
  • Garlic

For your personalized heart health profile and plan, please contact me for more information. I offer a complimentary consultation to review your risk factors and discuss what your personalized plan will look like.

Remember, contact your healthcare provider if you have any of these risk factors or if you have a family history of early heart disease.

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