One of the most common reasons for hypertension and the risk of heart disease among Canadians is due to a person’s diet. Simply, many of us are consuming far too much salt, fat and sugar that can affect our health, quality of life and overall longevity.

To combat this, researchers and heart-related organizations have developed a dietary plan called, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or what is known as the DASH diet. The diet consists of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and a lower level of salt.  Dietitians of Canada states that DASH can even be as effective as some medications in helping keep blood pressure levels in a normal range.

Why is a healthy blood pressure important?

High blood pressure and carrying excess weight on your body, causes the heart to work harder to pump nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood to the body. The arteries that deliver the blood become scarred and less elastic. Although these changes happen to everyone as they age, they happen more quickly in people with high blood pressure. As the arteries stiffen, the heart has to work even harder, causing the heart muscle to become thicker, weaker and less able to pump blood. When high blood pressure damages arteries, they are not able to deliver enough blood to organs for their proper functioning.


To help walk us through this diet, we’ve asked our Registered Dietitian, Marsha Rosen, to explain its components and what a normal day would be like on the DASH diet.

The DASH diet emphasizes making meal and snack choices from the following Food Groups:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Grains
  • Low Fat or No-Fat Dairy Foods
  • Lean meats, poultry and fish
  • Nuts, seeds and dry  legumes
  • Fats and oils

The DASH Eating Plan outlines what you would eat normally if you followed a 2000 calorie a day diet.



Food Group Number of
daily servings
Example of serving size
Grains 6-8 1 slice whole grain bread

½ cup cooked brown rice or whole wheat pasta

*Choose whole grains like oats, millet, barley, bulgur and quinoa most often*

Vegetables 4-5 ½ cup any raw or cooked vegetable

1 cup raw leafy vegetable

½ cup low sodium or reduced sodium vegetable and tomato juice

Fruit 4-5 1 medium fruit
¼ cup dried fruit½ cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit or juice
Low-fat milk products 2-3 1 cup skim or 1% milk

1 cup low-fat yogurt (2% milk fat or less)

1.5 oz low-fat cheese (19% milk fat or less)

Lean meat, poultry and fish 6 or less 1 oz cooked lean meat, skinless poultry or fish
1 egg
Nuts, seeds and legumes 4-5 times per week 1/3 cup unsalted nuts (almonds, walnuts)

2 Tbsp peanut butter

2 Tbsp seeds (sunflower, pumpkin)

½ cup cooked legumes (kidney beans, chickpeas)

Fats and oils 2-3 1 tsp non-hydrogenated, unsalted margarine

1 tsp oil (olive, canola, etc.)

1 Tbsp low-fat mayonnaise or salad dressing

Sweets and added sugars 5 or less per week 1 tbsp sugar, jelly or jam

½ cup sorbet


In addition to focusing on these key food areas, the DASH eating plan encourages you to eat foods that are high in potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Potassium – Good sources of potassium include tomatoes, bananas, oranges, potatoes, nuts, lentils, beans, milk and fish.

Magnesium – Good sources of magnesium include spinach, whole grain cereals, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, soy and lentils.

Calcium – High amounts are found in milk, yoghurt, canned fish with bones mashed in, leafy green vegetables, beans and tofu (manufactured using calcium salts).

And finally – all of this is a wonderful beginning to lifelong healthy eating habits – the one other key step is to introduce some regular exercise that is personally enjoyable and done regularly. Get some professional help if you need it to start you on an appropriate program.


If you’re like many Canadians, almost every meal that you have throughout your day has some form of protein. We as Canadians believe this to be a part of a normal diet, but in fact, most of us are getting far more protein than what we actually need (American Heart Association).

The belief that protein is essential at every meal, still resonates with many families, stemming from the great depression, when protein was unaffordable and wasn’t easy to come by. Today, it is much more affordable to buy meat, but we have still held onto that idea, which so many of us have characterized as a normalcy to our diet.

Why is it harmful to have too much protein?

Protein is an important part of any Canadians diet, but often the problem that many Canadians face is that the extra protein that we’re consuming comes from meats high in saturated fats, which can elevate cholesterol levels. The amount of meat that we consume also tends to be much more than what we should have on a daily basis, which tends to make us feel more full and usually prevents us from consuming other food groups like fruits and vegetables.

How much protein do you actually need?

The amount of protein that you should consume during a day depends on your age and weight, but the Dieticians of Canada recommend that if you’re eating meat for your protein, that you choose small portions of lean, well-trimmed cuts of meat. A small portion is about the size of a deck of cards (75 grams or 2 ½ oz).

Choosing the right kind and the amount of protein:

  • When choosing a protein, opt for low-fat options, such as lean meats, skim milk or other foods with high levels of protein. Legumes, for example, can pack about 16 grams of protein per cup and are a low-fat and inexpensive alternative to meat.
  • Choose main dishes that combine meat and vegetables together, such as low-fat soups, or a stir-fry that emphasizes veggies.
  • Watch portion size. Aim for 2- to 3-ounce servings.
  • If you’re eating a snack, look for healthier alternatives. Opt for a plate of raw veggies rather than items like cheese. Cheese has protein too, but it also has fats.
  • Fish and other seafood: Opt for fish that provides omega-3 fatty acids. 2-3 servings per week.
  • Nuts, seeds, beans and legumes: 5 servings per week. Example: Tbsp of peanut butter, or 2 Tbsp of nuts or seeds.
  • Poultry, meat and eggs: Lean and extra-lean; skin and visible fat removed. 8-9 servings per week. Example: 3 oz cooked meat or poultry.


During heart month we’ve discussed many ways that you can help attain a heart-healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise. These are important areas of focus to every Canadian as heart disease is still one of the leading causes of premature death for both men and women in Canada. Although we have talked about ways that you can help to prevent heart disease from occurring, we haven’t discussed how to identify and react if you’re faced with a heart-related emergency. Below we have laid out common signs and symptoms of a heart attack and a cardiac arrest, and what you can do to help.

Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Identifying signs and symptoms can vary for both men and women, so it’s especially important to listen to your body as the signs tend to be much less noticeable in women. If you experience any of the signs below call 9-1-1 immediately.

Signs of a Heart Attack

Men and Women

  • Chest discomfort (pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, burning or heaviness)
  • Sweating
  • Upper body discomfort (neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, back)
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light-head

More Prevalent In Women

  • Indigestion type feeling, or band of tightness in the upper back region.
  • Dizzy, lightheadedness, or shortness of breath with exertion

What To Do If You Are, Or You See Someone Experiencing A Heart Attack

  1. Call 9-1-1
    • This is highly important as you want to get professional medical help to yourself or to the person you’re treating.
  2. Stop all activity
    • Sit or lie down in whatever position is most comfortable.
  3. Take nitroglycerin or Aspirin
    • If you have either of these items available to you, take them. If you have nitroglycerin, take your normal dosage. If you have Aspirin, chew and swallow a tablet. ***Important*** make sure that you or the person you’re treating are not allergic to either of these items before ingestion.
  4. Rest and wait
    • Wait and stay calm for help to come. If you’re by yourself and you know of someone close by who may be able to help you, try to call out to them for assistance.

Signs and Symptoms of a Cardiac Arrest

Signs of a cardiac arrest can happen much more rapidly, as cardiac arrest is defined as the heart stopping, and it’s no longer transferring blood to the rest of the body. It’s extremely important to get help for a cardiac arrest, as the inability to transfer blood to vital organs, can cause death within minutes.

Signs of a Cardiac Arrest

  1. Sudden collapse
  2. Unresponsive to touch and sounds
  3. Not breathing or they’re making gasping sounds.

What To Do If You See Someone Experiencing A Cardiac Arrest

  1. Call 9-1-1 immediately
  2. Yell or try to locate an AED 
    • If you have someone else with you, get them to look for and fetch an AED. AED’s are often available in public places, so if you can’t find one, try to locate an information desk and ask if there is one available.
  3. Start CPR
    • Begin chest compressions by pushing down hard and fast in the centre of the chest. If you become tired, try to sub in another bystander until help arrives.

Mikey Young at Heart App

To better prepare yourself in case of a heart-related emergency, we encourage you to sign up and download the Mikey Young at Heart app. Although the app is meant primarily for high school students, it can be used to educate anyone on how to perform CPR and how to properly use an AED.

Recently, a Mikey Young at Heart student was able to save a life which she credits to the training that she received in the app.


At the Mikey Network, we truly understand the value that family has, as it encompasses so much of the projects and programs that we do as an organization. One of them being the Mikey’s Kids program, which provides MIKEY’s (AED’s) to families that have children with life-threatening heart conditions.

Our experience working with these families is rewarding beyond measure, as providing a MIKEY offers a child protection in case of a sudden cardiac arrest, and offers the family peace of mind to know that their child is safe in case an incident were to occur.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Mikey’s Kid’s program, go to It has tools, resources, and stories of Mikey Families.

Our work doesn’t rely solely on just families with heart-related illnesses though, as there are 6,500 children and teens that experience SCA in Ontario every year.

Knowing that youth are particularly vulnerable when their hearts skip a beat is alarming, which is why we created the Mikey Young at Heart Program to help give peace of mind to families in the community as well as make our schools safer.

The MYAH program works in two parts. One area focuses on the placement of AED’s in schools all over Ontario, while the other part focuses on educating students on how to perform CPR and how to use an AED, through the MYAH app.

To date, 500 MIKEY AED’s have been placed in schools including the Toronto District School Board, Peel District School Board, Halton District School Board, Halton Catholic District School Board, and the Limestone District School Board. While the MYAH app has had 2,479 students signed up to date.

If you would like to share a special story about your family with us, please reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.



From February 7th to the 14th, is Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week in Canada. Although the disease is not well-known to many Canadians, it is one of the most common birth defects, affecting one in every one hundred children. At the Mikey Network, we understand the impact that this disease can have on individuals and families, as we regularly deal with young men and women who have CHD.

For those that don’t know, the word congenital means “present at birth”. The congenital heart defect occurs when the heart or the blood vessels near the heart don’t develop normally before birth.

There is no known cause for the disease, but in traceable cases, it is often caused by:

  • Viral infections such as measles.
  • Inherited
  • Down Syndrome
  • Drug or alcohol abuse during pregnancy

Although it is one of the more common birth defects, the survival of children with the disease has greatly increased thanks to medical advances in Canada and around the world.  Today, more than 90% that have (CHD), survive well into their adult life.

To learn more about CHD, we recommend the following resources.

Canadian Congenital Heart Alliance – Great resource for both children and adults that are affected by the disease.

University of Ottawa Heart Institute – Provides great insight into CHD, and defines symptoms and specific forms of the disease. They also have a clinic that provides care to adults with congenital heart defects once they become adults.

Canadian Adult Congenital Heart Network – pools the knowledge and experience of congenital heart disease professionals.