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St. Valentine Cares About Your Heart Health

February 14, 2012 by Kenton Delisle

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Well, it's Valentine's Day AND February is Heart Month. What a great time to consider your vascular health. I know, you have heard it before, heart health is important, yada, yada. However, have you thought about other benefits to a heart healthy lifestyle? Think about it.

If you're taking steps to improve your vascular health, we're talking about better circulation… all over your body. Are you with me? Better circulation to all your organs. That's right, it turns out that the same factors that reduce your risk for heart disease reduce your risk for erectile dysfunction (ED). Better circulation = more energy and stamina and better circulation = better blood flow….that's a win, win in my books.

In fact, research suggests that ED can be an early indicator of heart disease when it is due to blood flow issues, and vice versa, patients treated for heart disease have found they often have improved erectile function, when they employ a healthy lifestyle. Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic identify a number of areas to consider, including weight, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and depression. The Mayo Clinic points out that "making simple lifestyle changes such as exercising, changing your diet or losing weight may be enough to help keep your heart healthy - and improve your ability to have an erection." That's enough to motivate me to take a few steps towards a healthier "heart".

So, what can we do to try to ‘maximize' our results and improve our circulation?
1) Get, or stay active - heart health not only benefits from physical activity, it can help you enjoy more "physical activity".
2) Enjoy healthy eating, for heart health (read: better circulation) - it's not all steamed vegetables and fish.

Healthy eating and regular physical activity can improve your quality of life in many ways. Keep it up with a heart healthy lifestyle, and you just may have a better Valentine's Day, as a result.

Here are a few tips to consider for ‘heart healthy' eating to get you started, and/or keep you going.

Broad strokes It's all in the details
Vegetable oils are for more than frying.

Choose mono- and poly- unsaturated fats more often.
Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide recommends you include 30-45 mL (2 to 3 tablespoons) of unsaturated fat each day. This includes oil used for cooking, salad dressings, margarine and mayonnais

Monounsaturated fats are found in:

  • Nuts, Nut butters
  • Canola, olive and peanut oils, and non-hydrogenated soft margarines made from these oils

Polyunsaturated fats are found in:

  • Nuts and seeds such as walnuts, flax, sunflower, and sesame
  • Safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oils, and non-hydrogenated soft margarines made from these oils
  • Fish
Go Fish!

Eat more foods that have omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are a kind of polyunsaturated fat found in fish (DHA and EPA) and in plant foods (ALA). Both kinds of omega-3s are heart healthy, but the omega-3 in fish has the most benefit.

Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide recommends:
  • Eat at least 2 servings of fish a week instead of meat. One serving equals 75 grams (2 ½ ounces).

Fish that are good sources of omega-3's include:

  • herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines or trout

Eat plant sources of omega-3 fats (ALA) such as flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans, tofu and canola oil:

  • Sprinkle ground flaxseed on hot cereal
  • Snack on a handful of walnuts or roasted soybeans (also known as soynuts)
  • Use canola oil for cooking
Eat plants

Not the ones in your house (unless they are in fact grown as food plants), but your vegetables and fruits.

Plant foods have fibre that can help lower cholesterol and naturally occurring compounds called phytochemicals that may protect your heart.

Eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits every day.
  • Add vegetables to salads, soups, stews, and stir-fries and include dark green and orange vegetables every day
  • Try new ways for old vegetables
  • Buy fresh, frozen or pre-packaged fresh vegetable and fruit mixes to keep them on hand
  • Choose vegetables and fruit rather than juice because they have more fibre

Beans! Try them. They can be a gas.

  • Dried or canned beans, peas and lentils

Whole grains. Try including a variety of them every day.

  • Include sources of whole grain wheat, oats and oatmeal, rye, barley, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, triticale, bulgar (also known as ‘cracked wheat'), millet and quinoa.

Additional links:
Harvard Medical School; Family Health Guide. Heart Disease and Erectile Function
Mayo Clinic. Erectile Dysfunction: A sign of heart Disease

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