5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Family’s Heart Health

Heart healthy tips for the whole family

There are simple things we can do every day to help keep our hearts healthy.

February is Heart Month and it’s a great time (especially with Valentine’s Day around the corner) to show family and friends how much we love them, inside and out. Take the time to give your family a heart health tune-up, with these 5 easy steps:

Family fitness and activity

Get moving: Being active is a great way to enjoy time together with family and friends, and stay fit at the same time. In the winter curling up on the couch with Netflix can seem pretty tempting, but unfortunately too much sitting increases our risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Follow the advice from the Blue Zones, five areas of the world where people tend to live long and healthy lives. People in the Blue Zones tend to be active throughout the day, instead of following an exercise routine. Walk home from school with the kids, take the family skating or to an indoor pool on the weekend, take an evening walk together, do the weekly grocery shop on foot! There are many ways to add activity to your life, stave off the winter blues, and spend time with your loved ones too!

Craving a bit more action? Try high intensity interval training (HIIT). In HIIT, participants aim to get their heart rate up to 95 or 90% of maximum in short bursts called intervals, with rest in between. HIIT can be effective reducing risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Healthy habits for the whole family

Get your Zzzzzzzzs: In 2011 the European Heart Journal published a review of 15 medical studies involving over 450, 000 people. It seems that too little, or too much sleep is not good for your heart.

People who got less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours of sleep per night had an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Getting lots of rest can be hard if you work long hours and/or have young children. Try to keep electronics out of the bedroom and establish a healthy bedtime routine for the whole family.  That will help your heart, and also help you remember your sense of humour when your boss and/or the kids start driving you crazy.

Eat your fibre: Getting your fibre is one of the best things you can do for your heart! A high-fibre diet lowers our risk of heart disease and also helps to prevent overweight and some cancers. In fact, it is almost impossible to eat an unhealthy high-fibre diet. Unfortunately, most Canadians are eating only about half of our recommended fibre. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes are all fibre-packed, and full of other great, heart-healthy nutrients too! It’s also a great time to introduce healthy, versatile, inexpensive and tasty pulses to your table. Try this Easy Lentil Stew, which is a real winner!

Keep your heart ticking with technology

What’s up doc? Don’t forget to get you, and your loved ones scheduled in at the doctors for a regular check up. Keeping an eye on your blood pressure one part of helping keep your heart healthy.

Get into heart-healthy technology: Is technology slowing you down? Do you find that you are spending too much time on your phone? Time to give your phone a heart-healthy tune up! There are many Facebook groups that promote activity and healthy eating. Joining one may provide you with the support and encouragement you need to stick with your goals. The Heart and Stroke Foundation has a lot of great tips and tools for healthy living and cooking, to help you keep your heart in shape.

Dr. Pamela Fergusson, RD

Pamela Fergusson is a Registered Dietician with a PhD in nutrition with a private practice in Toronto. She brings a love of nutrition, wellness and fitness to her blogging. She loves to cook and bake with her four children, teach them about food and nutrition through shopping for and preparing colourful, healthy family meals together. Pamela is also a runner and speed walker and has completed six half and full marathons.

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