This past fall, my hubby’s favourite uncle suffered a heart attack. He’s fine now, but he’s had to make A LOT of lifestyle changes, and has missed quite a bit of time from work, and from his family. When we got together with his wife at Christmas, the family had a big discussion about nutrition and exercise. Her overall message was clear:
Don’t have time to exercise and eat healthy foods?
Then do you have time for a heart attack?
She’s right – you can take care of yourself now, or just wait until a health crisis either takes your life, causes irrevocable damage, or just plain forces you to do what you should have been doing all along.
Yeah – that’s harsh, I know, but the truth hurts.
Although you lack the power to change some risk factors ” such as family history, sex or age ” there are some key lifestyle changes you can make NOW that will possibly prevent you from having to make time for a heart attack:
- Stop smoking
Full stop, don’t do it. I don’t think I even need to elaborate on why you need to quit – just do it! The Canadian Lung Association website has a lot of great tips on how you can quit.
Strive for at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. However, even shorter amounts of exercise offer heart benefits, so if you can’t meet those guidelines, don’t give up. You can even break up your workout time into 10-minute sessions. Steph has a great series of posts on 10 minute exercises called Got 10 Minutes?
- Follow the DASH Diet
The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) provides benefits to reduce blood pressure. It is based on an eating plan rich in fruits and vegetables, and low-fat or non-fat dairy. Even though most people know that this seems like a very healthy way of eating, initially it is hard to implement and sustain. The average American gets 2 – 3 servings of fruits and vegetables combined each day, so following the DASH diet can involve making a concerted effort. There’s a book you can buy that will help you called the The DASH Diet Action Plan.
- Maintain a healthy weight
A BMI (Body Mass Index) of 25 or less is best, but even a small weight loss can be beneficial. Reducing your weight by just 10 percent can decrease your blood pressure, lower your blood cholesterol level and reduce your risk of diabetes. Following the DASH diet and getting 30-60 min of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week will help you greatly with your weight.
- Get regular health screenings
High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels. But without testing for them, you probably won’t know whether you have these conditions. Regular screening can tell you what your numbers are and whether you need to take action. Don’t believe me? Go ask my pal Dr. Oz – I’m sure he agrees.
I’m not going to pretend I’m perfect. Although I don’t smoke (I quit 15 yrs ago!), have a healthy weight and am screened regularly, I need to work harder on the diet aspect of this. I turn to quick, easy to prepare meals far too often – though I do often snack on fresh fruits and veggies. I don’t have time for a heart attack, so I’m going to work on my improving my diet, and my family’s diet…