Taking care of that ticker

It goes without saying that our heart is a vital organ, and we should take every possible step to ensure it stays healthy throughout our lives. Here are some smart choices you can make today to keep you heart-healthy for life:

Get physical. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease, which is why regular physical activity is recommended for at least 30 minutes a day. For some people that may seem impossible, but even breaking it up into 10-minute increments will do. Exercise also helps influence other health factors like high blood pressure and weight control.

Watch the salt and cholesterol. A high-salt, high-cholesterol diet is associated with heart disease, so keep an eye on your intake of both. There are two types of cholesterol: one good and one not so good. ‘Bad’ cholesterol, or Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), causes buildup of plaque in the arteries. Cholesterol levels can be better managed by ensuring regular medical checkups and paying attention to your diet. In particular choosing foods low in saturated fats, trans fats and refined sugars and high in fibre, omega 3’s, mono and poly unsaturated fats.

Feed your heart. As with all organs, the heart is affected by the foods we eat. While there is no ‘magic bullet’ food for the heart, a variety of healthy choices are known to protect your heart from disease. Get your fill of plant foods – vegetables, fruits and whole grains. The heart also loves healthy fats, which you’ll find in oily fish, nuts, avocados and olive oil. Overall, a high-fibre diet rich in plant foods will keep your ticker going strong.

Ditch the cigarettes. It’s not news that smoking is bad for you, but many people don’t know the extent of damage the toxins in cigarettes can do to their body. Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and artery walls, slowing the flow of blood to all other parts of the body. Smoking increases the risk of a heart attack, stroke, cancer and other health issues.

There are two other important factors to heart health worth noting in more depth: maintaining a healthy weight and healthy mind.