Maintaining a healthy heart relies on a consistent plan of action with the right food and exercise. A daily diet–and–exercise routine is what the doctor orders to fuel the body and keep the arteries healthy, clear, and strong.
“Many risk factors contribute to the development of heart disease–and while monitoring your cholesterol level is important, so is monitoring inflammation in the arteries,” says Dr. Doug Tkachuk at LifeLabs, a leading diagnostic centre. “Inflammation is involved at all stages of heart disease and if ignored, the inside wall of the artery may weaken and trigger a plaque rupture, leading to a potential blood clot and heart attack.”
Research studies demonstrate that about 50 per cent of heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol levels, so many doctors across Canada are now adding inflammation testing too. General aging puts us at risk and so do smoking, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, and family history.
Plan of action
When it comes to diet, following the daily recommendations provided by Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating is an easy change to implement. In particular, select foods that are low in cholesterol and saturated fat, but high in fibre and nutrients to regulate and balance the blood stream. These choices include whole grain cereals, breads, nuts, and seeds. Eat fish plus lean red meats, turkey and chicken, plus lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Bottom line: put only beneficial nutrients and fuel into your body.
A dedicated plan to increase physical activity every day is equally important. If you are starting from scratch, simply walk more, take the stairs at the office and shops, or cycle so you can leave the car at home. Ideally, with doctor's clearance, everyone should aim for an accumulated 30–minutes of moderate–intensity aerobic exercise on most days of the week to pump in oxygen, keep your heart muscles strong, and to reduce inflammation in the arteries.