The heart is considered to be one of the strongest, hardest working muscles in the body. On average, it beats approximately 115,000 times per day and pumps approximately 200 gallons of blood into the veins and arteries, travelling a staggering 12,000 miles throughout the body in order to provide every other muscle, organ, nerve and tissue with the nutrients they need. In an average lifetime, the heart will beat as many as 3 billion times and pump more than 1 gallons of blood throughout the body. The heart allows us to breathe, it ensures that the cells in our body have enough oxygen, it eliminates waste products, and it maintains blood pressure. Life is 100% dependent on the heart, and without it we would not be able to survive.

On September 29th, you’ll not only learn everything mentioned above, but also the importance of heart health. Created by the World Heart Federation, World Heart Day teaches people the risks associated with cardiovascular disease (including heart attack and stroke.) In fact, did you know that cardiovascular disease is the world’s leading cause of death amongst both men and women? It claims as many as 17.5 million lives every year, making it a global crisis, therefore making World Heart Day all the more important. The day will also highlight what individuals can do in order to prevent or have better control over cardiovascular disease, while Dr. Ghahary explains the risk factors associated with it below.

One of the most common causes of cardiovascular disease is obesity; and if you’re overweight/obese and don’t have cardiovascular disease then you’re certainly at risk of developing it. In addition, being overweight or obese is also linked to things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, impaired glucose intolerance or type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, and even certain types of cancer. Whether or not you are considered obese depends on your BMI (Body Mass Index.) If your BMI is below 18.5, you’re underweight. If your BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, you’re a normal weight. If your BMI is between 25.0 and 29.9, you’re overweight; and if your BMI is 30.0 or above, you’re considered obese. If you’re overweight or obese and have two or more risk factors of cardiovascular disease, then you need to work on decreasing that risk. The best way to do that, says Dr. Ali Ghahary, is to change your lifestyle – such as eating healthier and getting regular physical activity.

Having a healthy diet is one of the best weapons against cardiovascular disease. To have a heart-healthy diet, you should consume foods that are low in calories and high in nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and fibre. Dr. Ghahary also suggests increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, as well as eating more whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts, and dairy products that are low in fact. Things like red meat, sugar, and alcohol should be avoided. Along with eating healthy, your diet also needs to be coordinated with physical activity. One of the best types of exercises you can do not just for your heart but for your overall health, is to go walking; while jogging, biking and swimming are also great to keep the heart healthy. You can also improve your body’s flexibility and stamina by stretching and strengthening (i.e. lifting weights.)

If you’re stressed, this is something you should also work on reducing as research has suggested there may be a link between it and coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease occurs when there has been a buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries, increasing the risk of a heart attack. When you’re stressed, it’s not uncommon to either overeat or indulge in foods that aren’t healthy for you, thus increasing your chances of heart problems in the future, so you’ll want to work in reducing that stress. For more information on how stress can affect the body and different tools to help you manage your stress, click here.

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