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7 ways to keep your heart healthy

February is Heart Month, a good time to look at what you can do to lower your heart disease risk. Heart disease affects about 2.4 million Canadian adults and is the second leading cause of death, according to Health Canada. It’s also the most common cause of disability worldwide, says Canada Safety Council.

Prevention is key because almost 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

Here are seven tips to help keep your heart strong:

1) Be physically active. A 2017 study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that older adults who engaged in regular, moderate leisure-time physical activity were less likely to develop heart disease and had fewer deaths from heart attack and stroke. Exercise improves your heart’s health by lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of blood clots, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and improving the ratio of unhealthy to healthy cholesterol in your body.

2) Eat nutritious, healthy foods. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, and foods with protein such as fish, beans, lentils, lower fat dairy products and lean meat, says Heart and Stroke. Limit foods and drinks high in calories, sugar, salt and additives.

3) Maintain a healthy weight. Even losing a little extra weight can help lower your risk of heart disease, says the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

4) Monitor and manage high-risk conditions. Early detection and management of medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes helps lower heart disease risk, says PHAC.

5) Reduce stress. Stress increases the risk of heart attack, says Harvard Medical School. Stress-busting strategies include getting enough sleep, regular exercise, relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or tai chi, or listening to music you love.

6) Limit alcohol use. Drinking too much alcohol raises blood pressure. Men should stick to no more than two drinks a day, and women no more than one, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

7) Live tobacco-free. Smokers are three times more likely to suffer a stroke or die of heart disease, says Heart and Stroke. If a person smokes, quitting immediately lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke.