What are some of the benefits of striving for heart health? Take a look at some of the incentives to begin making lifestyle changes.
Healthier Blood Pressure
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods can help you reduce your systolic blood pressure by 8-14 mm Hg.
Get plenty of potassium, which can help prevent and control high blood pressure.
To prevent and treat high blood pressure, a dietary sodium intake of 1,500 mg is recommended for adults younger than 50 years of age, 1,300 mg for those 51 to 69, and 1,200 mg for those older than 70. Individuals with high blood pressure whose sodium intake is 3,000 to 3,500 mg can reduce systolic blood pressure by 5.1 mm Hg if they cut out 1,800 mg of sodium.
Pay attention to the amount of salt that's in the processed foods you eat, such as canned soups or frozen dinners.
Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you're overweight, a modest reduction in weight of 10% of your current body weight can lower your blood pressure. For every kilogram of weight loss, you can reduce your blood pressure by 1.1/0.9 mm Hg.
Increase Physical Activity
Regular physical activity can help lower your blood pressure and keep your weight under control. Aiming for 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity four to seven days a week can decrease total blood pressure by 4.9/3.7 mm Hg.
Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Even if you're healthy, alcohol can raise your blood pressure. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation — one to two drinks per day for a weekly maximum of nine for women and 14 for men. Limiting your alcohol could decrease your systolic blood pressure by 2-4 mm Hg.
Improved Cholesterol Levels
Making recommended lifestyle changes can improve your cholesterol by 5% to 10%,6 but medications have been shown to lower LDL-cholesterol by 20% to 55%,7 depending on the type that is prescribed and the dosage. As a result, medication is often required in combination.
Eat More Fibre: Fibre is a great cholesterol-fighting source. Between 5 to 10 g a day can reduce your LDL cholesterol by 3% to 5%.
- Every 1 mmol/L reduction in LDL is associated with a 20% to 25% decrease in cardiac death and heart attack.3
- Treating high cholesterol can increase your average life expectancy by 1.67 years and allow 1.84 more years in which you’re free of CVD.4
Heart Healthy Nutrition
You can significantly improve your cardiovascular health by following a heart-healthy diet, as the following nutritional recommendations and their effects show:
- If you consume 5 to 10 grams of fibre each day, you can reduce your total cholesterol by 3%.
- Decreasing your intake of fats and cholesterol reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease through the lowering of LDL, or “lousy,” cholesterol.
- Consuming omega-3 fats is associated with a reduced risk of death from coronary artery disease. Omega-3s exert a protective cardiovascular effect by reducing triglycerides, inhibiting clot formation, and reducing blood pressure.
- Soluble fibre in your diet reduces LDL cholesterol levels beyond those achievable by a diet low in saturated and trans fats. Also, more fibre in your diet can lead to a decrease in blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and blood clots.
- Diets high in whole grains and fibre are associated with improved nutrition overall and a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease.
- When you maintain a low-sodium to perform and regulate certain functions of the body, such as blood pressure and muscle and nerve function} diet, you can keep hypertension at bay, or you can lower your blood pressure if you have elevated levels.
- Each fruit or vegetable you eat is associated with a 4% reduction in the risk for a coronary event.
- If you get more omega-3s and less saturated fat, you can increase your HDL, or “good,” cholesterol levels.
- You can reduce your triglycerides, another form of fat in the body, by maintaining a diet low in sugar and alcohol.
Increased Physical Activity
Inadequate exercise is an independent risk factor for a host of chronic health conditions, especially cardiovascular disease (CVD). When you increase your physical activity even a little, at any age, disease development and progression are slowed down. Ultimately, with consistent exercise, you can experience a decrease in chronic conditions by 20% to 50%.
Health experts advise that you dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to some kind of physical activity. Brisk walking on this schedule, for example, can reduce your blood pressure by 5% or more, thereby decreasing cardiovascular risk as well.
Physical Activity will:
- Improve the efficiency and decrease the workload of your heart and lungs
- Improve your HDL (good) cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglyceride (fat) levels
- Lower your blood pressure and produce an immediate decrease in blood pressure that can persist for up to 22 hours
- Help you achieve and maintain a healthier body weight
- Lower your blood sugar on par with glucose-lowering medications2
- Improve your muscle tone and bone density
- Increase your stamina (energy levels)
- Boost your confidence, self-esteem, and sense of well-being
- Improve your ability to cope with stress and decrease anxiety and depression
- Lower your heart rate
- Improve sleep
- Reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, breast cancer, and colon cancer
- Release endorphins, the body’s natural antidepressant
- Reduce the heart attack risk for previously inactive people by 35% to 55%3
- Yield a 30% reduction in all causes of death
Quitting smoking is the most important thing you can do to positively affect your heart health. Becoming smoke-free at any age improves your health and can extend your life. It’s never too late to quit, but the sooner you quit, the sooner your body can begin to heal and repair the damage caused by smoking. The following are just a few of the many positive statistics associated with quitting the habit:
- The benefits of quitting begin within 20 minutes of your last cigarette, and at one year, your risk for a heart attack is reduced by 50%.
- Within just 24-hours of quitting, your blood pressure and pulse rate may drop.
- Fifteen years after you quit, you are at no greater risk for death than a non-smoker.
- Quitting smoking lowers your risk for hospitalization and death.
- More than 6.6 million Canadians have successfully kicked the habit.3
- Smoking is the most preventable cause of cardiovascular disease.
- No matter how long you have smoked, quitting will greatly improve your health.
Quitting smoking is difficult. On average, most smokers try to quit five to seven times before finally succeeding. A variety of proven techniques are available to help you stop. Successful quitting requires making a continual effort and getting plenty of help through a combination of counselling and medications that specifically target quitting. But putting in the effort can return your health to that of a non-smoker within a few years, offering you a longer, healthier life.
Beyond the many health benefits that begin within as little as 20 minutes of quitting smoking, you’ll experience other advantages, such as:
- Your food will taste better.
- You’ll feel better about yourself and have a greater sense of self-control.
- Your home, car, and clothing will smell better.
- As a non-smoker, you’ll serve as a role model for your children, decreasing the likelihood that they will smoke.
- You’ll no longer expose your family and friends to second-hand smoke.
- You’ll perform better during physical activity.
- With fewer wrinkles and whiter teeth, you’ll look better.
And you’ll save money. The cost of smoking one pack of cigarettes is about $10 per day, $70 per week, or $3,920 per year. Think of the money you will save over the long term once you quit.
How much do you spend on cigarettes?
Government of Canada – Cost Calculator
Stress, Anxiety & Depression
When you reduce your stress, you not only help yourself, you help others around you. Because stress can affect your mood and emotions, your behaviour can change and negatively impact those close to you. Stress can make you irritable and more prone to anger. When stress becomes severe, you risk taking out your frustrations on family members and friends.
Keeping your stress under control can reduce the chances that it will affect your loved ones. At the same time, your risk for anxiety and depression will diminish. Several benefits of lowering your stress include:
- Better self-esteem
- Improved sleep patterns
- More energy
- Better controlled blood pressure
- Regular heart rate
- Normal appetite
- Better concentration
- Uplifted mood
Just as the stress you experience influences others, a calm and more positive orientation impacts the people around you. When you reduce your stress, your friends and loved ones are more likely to enjoy your company and help you maintain a sense of well-being.
Lifestyle changes can help you lose weight and keep it off, bringing a range of health benefits, such as:
- Lower blood pressure and management of high blood pressure
- Lower levels of triglycerides and total cholesterol (forms of fat in the blood)
- Improved lung function
- Control of blood sugar (increased insulin sensitivity)
- Improved quality of life
- Improved mood