Could a man’s heart be more fragile than a woman’s?
As it turns out, men pay a price for their comparatively stable moods and emotions: a man’s heart is not as well protected as a woman’s.
But don’t be heartbroken…
By adopting a healthier lifestyle and a few other basic practices, you can significantly reduce your risk of dying of a heart-related illness. It’s a topic that weighs heavily on many people’s hearts, but there are a few simple things you can do to help.
It’s true that 45-year-old men have a greater risk of getting heart disease than women do, at least before women reach menopause. Women in their childbearing years enjoy estrogen’s benefits to the heart and arteries. However, after menopause the risks don’t discriminate between the sexes, but depend on a whole range of other factors instead.
In the “nothing you can do about it” category, there’s age (45+) and family history. Ethnicity also plays a part: indigenous peoples and people of African or South Asian descent have a higher risk than others.
In Canada, 90% of people have at least one risk factor for heart disease. The factors are:
- Eating less than five fruit and vegetable portions each day
- Lack of exercise
- Excess weight (especially around the waist)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Diabetes (especially in women)
Problems such as diabetes and hypertension require close medical supervision, but if they’re controlled, the risk of contracting heart disease declines.
According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation, adopting five simple behaviours can cut the risk of contracting heart disease by as much as 88%. Just five!
Six Helpful Hints for a Healthy Heart
1- Eat more fruits and veggies!
To change your eating habits, it’s a good idea to keep a journal to monitor your progress. The site jaime5a10.ca/en is full of great recipes that even specify portion sizes. Half a cup is a typical portion size. It doesn’t take much, and it’s easy to find something you’ll like. Ideally, your plate should contain two or three vegetables, which can include potatoes.
Eating five to 10 portions of fruits and vegetables each day can have a number of benefits. You’ll feel better and be less prone to constipation, and your waistline will begin to shrink. And while you’re at it, you’ll save on your meat bill and help the planet!
2- Cut down on salt.
Opt for foods that contain no more than 100 mg of salt per portion, or better still, cook at home and use Herbamare to cook better with less salt.
Salt has a major impact on hypertension. Seventy-seven percent of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods. Sodium sometimes hides in the unlikeliest of places, like bread and even breakfast cereals! It’s best to choose foods labelled “no added salt” and if your food really is too bland, season with just a pinch of salt.
Stress is the bane of our times, causing or aggravating a number of health problems. When it comes to heart health and hypertension, stress plays a leading role. You can manage stress by using relaxation techniques, such as yoga and tai chi, but also by playing sports regularly. And some plants can help: Passion flower is a nerve tonic, while rhodiola increases resistance to stress.
4- Get moving!
If you play a sport or take a walk in the evening, you’ll get more out of it than you would have if you’d just sat in front of the TV. And you’ll feel much more relaxed afterwards.
Here’s a surprising and disappointing statistic: only 17% of men get enough exercise! The experts recommend getting 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week, the equivalent of 21½ minutes a day.
If you take public transit, get off a stop early and walk the rest of the way, or park a few streets away from the office. That extra half-hour a day will do you good from day one!
5- Complement your diet with supplements!
Vitamins E and C, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, are essential to heart health. If you don’t like the slight fishy taste of omega-3 fatty acids, you can take a vegetarian-friendly algae-based supplement instead. When taken over the long term, the ALA present in omega-3s cuts the risk of a heart attack by 59%.
6- THE plant for a healthy heart!
There’s a plant that your heart needs to meet: Heart, meet Hawthorn. Its cardiac benefits have been known since the 16th century. It tones the heart muscle, improves the strength of contractions and boosts the velocity of blood as it leaves the heart. This supplement needs to be taken for three to six months for you to see its benefits, but it’s worth it. In the long run, hawthorn increases the blood supply and oxygen flow to the heart.
And then there’s the issue of excess weight. If you eat five to 10 fruits and vegetables a day, cut down on salt and get moving, your waist will shrink on its own. Best of all, you’ll be stacking the odds of saving your heart in your favour. However, do keep in mind that you might need to go shopping for a new belt!