Royce Shook

1 year ago · 4 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

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February is heart month

February is heart month – a time to increase awareness of cardiovascular health and the things that affect it. Heart disease affects approximately 2.4 million Canadian adults and is the second leading cause of death in Canada. There are several factors that contribute to your overall heart health including exercise, diet, and overall lifestyle. McMaster University has put together some of the latest evidence-based resources on five key areas that help you maintain a healthy heart as you age.

1. Exercise

Here are four research-based examples of the health benefits of walking:

· Improves heart health. In older adults who were previously inactive, walking for 20-60 minutes per day, 2-7 days per week can reduce some risk factors for heart disease

· Benefits people with existing chronic conditions. Walking groups can also provide great opportunities to socialize and increase motivation to be more physically active. For older people with chronic conditions like arthritis, dementia, depression, and Parkinson’s disease, walking in groups can improve blood pressure, heart rate, body fat, fitness.

· Helps with stroke recovery. One to 6 months after a stroke, walking training (including musical feedback and treadmill training) can help to improve walking speed and distance more than traditional walking training. Six or more months after a stroke, any type of walking training helps improve walking ability, speed, and distance.

· Reduces pain and improves physical function. For people with chronic musculoskeletal pain, walking can improve pain for up to one year. In fact, walking provides more effective pain relief than other common interventions such as education, usual care, other exercises, relaxation, or massage. Walking can also improve overall physical function in chronic pain sufferers.

2. Eat a healthy, balanced diet

· Two recent systematic reviews found that the Paleo diet can lead to weight loss, trim the waistline, and lower body mass index. One of these reviews also found that the Paleo diet may impact other risk factors for heart disease by increasing the concentration of certain fats found in the blood like HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lowering blood pressure, inflammation, and the concertation of other fats like triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. It’s also important to note that the reviews themselves were small in terms of the number of participants included. In the end.

· Neither paid much attention to the cons of the Paleo diet, but if you’re thinking of adopting this diet, you should consider them carefully! For example, the Paleo diet cuts out dairy, which may impact your calcium levels, a key element for bone health. If following the Paleo diet, it’s important to ensure you’re getting the needed amount of daily calcium from other food sources. The Paleo diet also recommends getting just one-third of your daily calories from carbohydrates, making it a “low-carb” diet. The safety of diets that restrict carbohydrate consumption to this degree is heavily debated and needs to be assessed further.

3. Reduce your salt intake

· Cutting back on salt has been the focus of numerous research studies, including 34 randomized controlled trials involving more than 3,200 people between the ages of 22 and 73. Two-thirds had high blood pressure; the rest had normal blood pressure. The average reduction in salt intake was 4,400 mg per day over a minimum of four weeks.

· Most American adults require no more than 6,000 mg of salt per day, while certain groups like African Americans, adults 51 and over, and people with conditions like hypertension, diabetes and chronic kidney disease should reduce their daily salt intake to 4,000mg.

· The evidence was strong that reducing salt intake lowers blood pressure in adults, regardless of sex or ethnicity and without any adverse effects. Improvements were greatest in people with high blood pressure (systolic blood pressure decreased an average of 5.39 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure decreased an average of 2.82 mm Hg) but notable drops were also seen in people with normal blood pressure.

· The research also suggests that greater reductions in salt intake will likely decrease blood pressure even further. So, if reducing our salt intake is a prudent course of action and one that will significantly lower our risk of heart disease and stroke, what’s the best way to do it? The real culprit, accounting for up to 85% of our salt consumption, is processed foods. A few sausage links or slices of bacon can account for more than half your daily salt limit. Canned foods, cheeses, bread, cereals, sauces and pickles are among the many other foods that are high in sodium.

4. Maintain good oral health. You can keep your teeth for your lifetime. Here are some things you can do to maintain a healthy mouth and strong teeth.

· Drink fluoridated water and brush with fluoride toothpaste.

· Practice good oral hygiene. Brush teeth thoroughly and floss between the teeth to remove dental plaque.

· Visit your dentist on a regular basis, even if you have no natural teeth or have dentures.

· Do not use any tobacco products. If you smoke, quit.

· Limit alcoholic drinks.

· If you have diabetes, work to maintain control of the disease. This will decrease risk for other complications, including gum disease.

· If your medication causes dry mouth, ask your doctor for a different medication that may not cause this condition. If dry mouth cannot be avoided, drink plenty of water, chew sugarless gum, and avoid tobacco products and alcohol.

· See your doctor or a dentist if you have sudden changes in taste and smell.

· When acting as a caregiver, help older individuals brush and floss their teeth if they are not able to perform these activities independently.

5 Don’t rely on supplements. Some say, “Without your health you have nothing”. This might explain why three-quarters of us take dietary supplements with the hope of boosting our health.

Clearly, we are a captive market. The challenge comes in teasing out which health claims are true. In some cases, such as in those with certain health conditions or a poor diet, supplements may be a beneficial strategy. Dietary supplements, however, are not closely regulated, and many have failed to live up to their promises of preventing or reversing chronic diseases. Aside from the costs, taking supplements can lead us to adopt a supplement regimen that is potentially dangerous or interferes with our prescribed medications

Ultimately, regardless of whether different dietary supplements are backed by evidence or not, always be sure to consult your health care provider or pharmacist before using them to tackle your health woes. These discussions will help you understand the potential positive and negative impacts on your health as an individual, especially since vitamins aren’t safe for everyone. February is heart month

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