Before you give your heart away for Valentine’s Day, stop and think: Is it a healthy heart?
Boosting our heart health is something we can all do with lifestyle changes, says Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, attending cardiologist and director of Women and Heart Disease of the Heart & Vascular Institute of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
But first we have to recognize our power.
“Heart disease is one of the few things that is preventable. Three-quarters of the time it is caused by lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and stress,” says Dr. Steinbaum, adding, “Family history you can’t change, but the other factors you can.”
No one is immune, according to Dr. Steinbaum. “The message is this: If you have a heart, you are at risk for heart disease.”
Besides the most obvious health improvement — quitting smoking — Dr. Steinbaum says there are four lifestyle changes we should all make. Valentine’s Day is a great time to be good to your ticker. And, besides, February is heart health month.
• Eat foods that lower your “bad” cholesterol. “Start your day by eating soluble fibre, such as Kellogg’s Guardian cereal,” says Dr. Steinbaum, who is also a spokesperson for Kellogg’s. “Something that simple can lower your chance of heart disease by 20 per cent,” she adds. Eat lots of fruits, nuts and fish. They are full of omega-6 fatty acids.
• Get your heart rate up for 30 minutes a day. This can be done in 10-minute increments. Dr. Steinbaum says you don’t have to join a gym to get enough exercise. In fact, she says, you don’t have to spend any money at all. You could do jumping jacks, skipping, running up and down the stairs, or even a brisk walk with the dog.
• Manage stress. Protect yourself by adding some “you time” during the day — to exercise, meditate, listen to music, or whatever turns you on.
• Build a social support system.
“These four things are the nuts and bolts of what it takes to lower heart disease risk — as well as not smoking,” says Dr. Steinbaum. “Together, they have a significant impact.”