February is heart month, a perfect time to step up your efforts to prevent heart disease. Here are some tips from Harriet Soudant, a Registered Nurse (RN) with the Ottawa Valley Family Health Team (OVFHT).
Quit smoking – “If you quit, your risk of heart disease drops dramatically within just one year,” says Ms. Soudant.
Exercise – “Try to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes, most days of the week,” she says. “Start slowly and have fun – walk, snowshoe, skate, dance or play outside with your children.”
Maintain a healthy weight and eat well – “Include fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains, beans, lean meats and fish in your diet,” advises Ms. Soudant. “Avoid trans fats and saturated fats, avoid high-sodium foods and, if you eat chocolate, switch to dark chocolate in small amounts – not the whole box.”
Limit alcohol intake – “Men should drink no more than two standard glasses of alcohol a day and women should limit their consumption to one glass a day,” she says. “Examples of a standard glass are 12 ounces (355 ml) of beer or five ounces (148 ml) of wine.”
Get checked – “Regular screenings for high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and diabetes are important,” says Ms. Soudant.
Reduce stress and socialize – “Laughing out loud is good for the heart,” she says. “Maintain your friendships, as people with strong, supportive networks have a lower risk of heart disease.
The OVFHT offers several programs to help prevent and manage heart disease and other chronic conditions. These include:
Smoking cessation – This program uses the Ottawa Model for Smoking Cessation. Participants can choose to participate in a research program that includes free aids to quit smoking.
Exercise – A certified trainer and RN offer two exercise classes: one builds strength and one builds cardiovascular function.
Hypertension – Patients with high blood pressure are monitored and given tips on healthy living.
Healthy eating – One program provides healthy eating tips for patients with cardiac conditions, and another provides tips for overall nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight.
Diabetes – Operated in conjunction with Rideau Valley Diabetes Services, these programs provide education and support to those with pre-diabetes or diabetes.
COPD and asthma – Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma receive help managing their disease, including training on how to use inhalers.
To be eligible for these programs, your family doctor must be a member of the OVFHT. Some programs require a referral from your doctor, but you may self-refer to others.
For more information, visit www.ovfht.ca.