It’s all about hearts at this time of year, but let’s not forget about heart health. Mostly we’re thinking about their capacity for love and looking at them on our Valentine’s Day cards. But it’s also a good time to reflect on what a heroic organ they are in our bodies – and how important it is to keep them healthy.
Your heart works hard for you and looking after it is absolutely crucial to staying healthy throughout your life. Here are some tips for a heart-healthy Valentine’s Day and lifestyle from your very own Wello Nurse Practitioners.
1. Keep your cholesterol down
Your body needs a certain amount of cholesterol, but too much can block your arteries and place you at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke. To prevent dangerous cholesterol levels, you should avoid fried foods, butter, cream and fatty meats like bacon. Replace canola oil with extra virgin olive oil in your cooking and up your intake of other ‘good’ fats in nuts, seeds, avocados and olives.
This Valentine’s Day: Pass over the red meat for a deep sea fish such as salmon, which is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Add roasted potatoes, which are packed with potassium to keep your heart beating steadily, and tomatoes, which can help fight bad cholesterol.
2. Love your greens
Eating a varied diet laden with vegetables is key to maintaining a healthy weight and low cholesterol levels. Green vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli are particularly good for heart health, as they’re high in antioxidants known as carotenoids. Kale also has some omega-3 fatty acids.
This Valentines Day: Order a hearty kale or spinach salad at your romantic dinner.
3. Stay away from sugar
A high-sugar diet places you at greater risk of being overweight, which in turn puts more pressure on your heart. Too many sweets can also raise your blood pressure and stimulate your liver to dump more harmful fats into your bloodstream, both of which are known risk factors for heart disease. Does this mean that all sugar is unsafe? Not at all, natural sugar, particularly in the form of fruit is a healthy and nutritious snack.
This Valentine’s Day: Indulge in dark chocolate, which is lower in sugar than milk chocolate, and which has flavonols that can lower blood pressure and prevent blood clotting and inflammation. You can also feel good about loading your dessert plate with fresh or dried fruit. Also, one way to enjoy drinks is with fruit – sweeten them with frozen fruit or consider freshly squeezed no additive fruit juice.
4. Stay active
Keep moving! Regular, moderate activity is essential for your heart health – and it’s never too late to start. If you have an office job, it’s also important to break up the time you spend sitting at your desk each day.
This Valentine’s Day: Why not get into the great outdoors together, on a romantic hike? Or take a long stroll after your heart-healthy Valentine’s dinner!
5. Don’t smoke and limit alcohol
Smoking reduces the oxygen in your blood and hardens the vessels that supply blood to your heart, placing you at greater risk of a heart attack, stroke, angina or heart disease.
With alcohol, it’s important to remember that moderation is key. Healthy men and women should drink no more than two alcoholic drinks per day, as alcohol causes high triglycerides and bad cholesterol. However research shows that a glass of red wine a day can help keep your heart healthy – thanks to flavonoids and a substance called resveratrol, which both have antioxidant properties.
This Valentine’s Day: At your Valentine’s celebration, alternate your alcoholic drinks with water and consider red wine for its heart health benefits!
If you’re a smoker, commit to giving up. It’s the best thing you can do to improve your health and extend your life – so you have more time to spend with the ones you love.
If you need help to give up smoking, reach out to a Wello Nurse Practitioner, who can give you the advice and support to stay smoke-free. At Wello we have resources to help with smoking cessation such as referrals to community resources or support groups. A Wello Nurse Practitioner can also refer you to medications, advise on over the counter options, and use cognitive behavioural therapy techniques to help you quit.
Wello is here to help you care for your heart!