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Colourful veggies heart health5 medication-free strategies to help prevent heart disease

Although genetics does plays a part in your overall heart health, there are steps you can take to help lower the risk of heart disease. If you follow these 5 strategies you’ll be well on your way to a heart-healthy lifestyle.

1. Don’t smoke or use tobacco

Smoking or using tobacco is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis can ultimately lead to a heart attack. When it comes to heart disease prevention, no amount of smoking is safe. Smokeless tobacco and low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes also are risky, as is exposure to secondhand smoke.

2. Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week

Getting some regular, daily exercise can reduce your risk of fatal heart disease. And when you combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight, the payoff is even greater.

3. Eat a heart-healthy diet

Eating a special diet called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan can help protect your heart. Following the DASH diet means eating foods that are low in fat, cholesterol and salt. The diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, which can help protect your heart. Beans, other low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce your risk of heart disease.

Continue reading at for the rest of these 5 heart health tips.

This week’s Fitness Post is brought to you by personal trainer Igor Klibanov from Fitness Solutions Plus.

Are you stretching enough? The truth is that what makes sense for one person may not make sense for another. The same is true with stretching.

If you’ve been to my talk called “exercise for different body types”, you’ll know how our trainers assess our clients to determine whether they should stretch or not.

Whether you should stretch before or after exercise and how is only complicated by the fact that there are 4 different types of stretching:

  1. Static passive. This is the most common form of stretching. Think about putting your leg out and reaching forward. It’s static (meaning that you’re not moving), and it’s passive (meaning that you let an external force, like gravity pull you into position).
  2. Static active. Think about how figure skaters skate with one leg up in the air (doing a standing split). This is static (means they’re not moving), but active (because they’re using their own muscle force to get into position).
  3. Dynamic passive. Think about swinging your leg forward and back. It’s dynamic (meaning the limb is moving), but it’s passive, because you’re letting an external force (in this case, momentum) take you through the range of motion.
  4. Dynamic active. It looks similar to dynamic passive, but it’s done under much more control, in which case you’d be using your own muscle force to move the limb.

I hesitate to make generalizations, since one-size-fits-all isn’t optimal (or can actually injure you), but before exercise, you should do dynamic stretches, and after exercise, static stretches.

There are exceptions to this rule, however. What if you have certain muscles that are tight to begin with? In that case, it makes sense to do static stretching on those muscle both before and after.

Oh, and here’s a side note: just because a muscle feels tight doesn’t mean it is tight, and stretching that muscle will do more damage than good. We look at your range of motion to truly identify if a muscle is tight or not. Often muscles can feel tight because neighboring muscles in the body are weak, so they’re taking the load of the weak muscles.

When we’re working with clients, to determine whether they should stretch, what type of stretching, and how much, here are all the factors that go into our consideration:

  1. Present range of motion of different joints (tighter people will need more stretching. For people who have lax joints, stretching will actually increase their risk of injury).
  2. Demands of daily life. Are we working with a desk-bound employee or a gymnast? The desk-bound employee will require less range of motion than the gymnast.
  3. Previous and current injuries.
  4. Goals. If your goals include improved flexibility, we’ll be stretching you more than if your goals include weight loss.

As you can see, it’s not quite as simple as saying “do these stretches”, and you’ll be healthier for it. Not the case. For some people (we see this especially in women), stretching may create more laxity in already lax joints, and increase risk of injury.

Mikey Network offers a simple shot at survival

Charitable network started by Hugh Heron and Heathwood Homes has placed 1,400 user-friendly defibrillators across the GTA, saving 17 lives so far.

toronto star mikey network

Rene Johnston / Toronto Star
Heathwood Homes president Hugh Heron, left, meets with Ajethan Ramachandranathan and Andrew Rosbrook, both of whom were saved by the Mikey Network of portable defibrillators.

By: Ryan Starr

Const. Andrew Rosbrook, an avid and well-conditioned runner, was nearing the end of the Goodlife Fitness half-marathon in May when he went into cardiac arrest.

His heart stopped beating for a potentially perilous seven minutes.

Ajethan Ramachandranathan, a healthy high school student, was kicking a soccer ball around with classmates in the gym at Weston Collegiate Institute last April when his heart suddenly stopped and he collapsed.

Moments away from dying, both men were saved by defibrillators provided through the Mikey Network.

The network has installed portable, user-friendly defibrillators, dubbed Mikeys, in high-risk public locations across the GTA.

Hugh Heron and his team at Heathwood Homes started the charity a decade ago in memory of Mike Salem, a company partner in his 50s who died of a heart attack on a Muskoka golf course.

“The hope is that we make it a cardiac-safe city,” explains Heron, Heathwood’s president.

So far, more than 1,400 Mikeys have been placed across the GTA and 17 lives have been saved as a result, including those of Rosbrook and Ramachandranathan.

In Rosbrook’s case, fellow officer Det.-Const. Laurie McCann performed CPR until a bike-riding paramedic with a Mikey was able to cut through the marathon throngs and reach him just in time.

“They put the pads on my chest and gave me one zap,” Rosbrook, 48, recalls being told. “Immediately, my pulse came back, my heart started beating and I started breathing again.”

In Ramachandranathan’s case, gym teacher Jeff Crewe used a Mikey installed just outside the school gym, part of the Mikey Young at Heart program, which has provided 280 defibrillators to schools, and trained educators on how to use them.

“He attached the paddles to my chest,” says Ramachandranathan, 19, recounting what witnesses told him later. “It brought my heart back.”

Last December, a Mikey administered by parents Craig and Jennifer Hansen gave their 2-year-old son, Carter, a second chance at life. The baby, who suffers from heart problems, went into arrhythmia and cardiac arrest just before Christmas.

The family had a Mikey on hand as part of the Mikey Kids program, which gives defibrillators to families of children with heart conditions so they can lead more normal lives — going on vacations and participating in activities.
Carter’s parents grabbed the machine and brought their son back to life.

“It’s an absolutely great story,” says Heron. “I don’t know about you, but I can’t understand something happening to a child 2 years of age.”

“But, fortunately, (the father) had been trained to use the machine. Thank god it all worked out well for them.”

It’s worked out well for Rosbrook and Ramachandranathan, too.

Rosbrook says he’s fully recovered from his brush with death, which he learned had been caused by a build-up of plaque in his arteries. (A stent was placed in one of his arteries to open up the clogged passage.)

In September, he ran 100 km in the National Peace Officer’s Memorial Run, an event dedicated to fallen soldiers.

“I always run it,” he says. “And I wanted to do the run this time to gauge where I was at health-wise.

“Turns out, I felt better than I had in previous years, so that gave me a tremendous boost of confidence.”

Ramachandranathan is now studying biology at York University, in the hopes of becoming a medical professional, a decision he says was shaped by what happened on the gym floor that day.

He found out he had been suffering from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes.

“Before (the event), I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he says. “But, now, I’ve decided I want to move toward the medical side of things — maybe a paramedic, maybe a doctor, I’m still not sure.”

Heron gets great satisfaction from hearing about the number of lives saved by the Mikey Network.

“Every time we hear there’s been a save, the feeling is just amazing,” he says.

The network continues to expand. In addition to the Young at Heart schools program and the Kids program, there is the Mikey on the GO program, which equipped 50 GO Transit trains with Mikeys to protect GO’s 100,000-plus daily passengers.

There’s also Mikey on Board, which has outfitted the fleet of moving company Two Men and a Truck with more than 100 Mikeys on their vehicles.

Heron wants to see the network continue to grow.

“One of the things I’m always telling people is that we should really have a defibrillator everywhere there’s a fire extinguisher,” he says. “Not necessarily a Mikey but there should be defibrillators out there.

“More people die from heart disease than they do from fire,” he adds. “And Mikeys save lives — fire extinguishers just save property.”

The home-building industry could be doing more to help the cause, Heron notes.

“We have a number of builders who have Mikeys on their construction sites, which is a really good place for them to be.

“There’s no reason all the building sites shouldn’t have a Mikey on board. We should be looking after our own.”

via The Toronto Star

Your heart works hard with every beat it takes.  Ever wanted to learn more about one of the most important organs in your body? Nova Online’s “Cut to the Heart” is a great resource for anyone looking to learn more about how the heart works, new advances in the treatment of heart problems and the history of modern heart surgery.

Here’s a short except from Nova Online’s Amazing Heart Facts:

Sure, you know how to steal hearts, win hearts, and break hearts. But how much do you really know about your heart and how it works? Read on to your heart’s content!

  • Put your hand on your heart. Did you place your hand on the left side of your chest? Many people do, but the heart is actually located almost in the center of the chest, between the lungs. It’s tipped slightly so that a part of it sticks out and taps against the left side of the chest, which is what makes it seem as though it is located there.
  • Hold out your hand and make a fist. If you’re a kid, your heart is about the same size as your fist, and if you’re an adult, it’s about the same size as two fists.
  • Your heart beats about 100,000 times in one day and about 35 million times in a year. During an average lifetime, the human heart will beat more than 2.5 billion times.

Visit Nova Online to read more amazing heart facts.

2013 Ryerson Mikey Network AwardCongratulations to Iana Mologuina, the recipient of the 2013 Mikey Network Award at Ryerson University School of Nutrition.

The Mikey Network Award is presented annually to a student in the Nutrition and Food program and was established by The Mikey Network to provide financial assistance and recognize academic excellence and a commitment to the promotion of nutrition to prevent chronic heart diseases.

The award was presented at the 2013 School of Nutrition Awards Ceremony on Thursday, November 14th 2013.

Congratulations Iana!