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With the summer season upon us, it means that many Canadians will be taking full advantage of the outdoors. Summer allows us to enjoy activities that we wouldn’t normally have the ability to do the rest of the year as the environment is often too cold.

For these reasons, Canadians tend to gravitate towards BBQing and eating outdoors as primary summer activities.

The change in climate doesn’t always provide you with the best benefits though, as foods that you reserve for summer can also bring a lot of risk to your diet. Many of us are prone to gravitating towards less healthy choices that might be higher in fat, such as burgers and hot dogs.

Here are some heart-healthy food ideas for you to consider this summer:

Heart Healthy Meals

Tilapia and Vegetables

Grilled Corn Salsa

Piri Piri Chicken

Bulgur Wheat Salad

Peachy Chicken Salad

Summer Fruit Smoothie Ice Pops

Vanilla Lemon Berry Parfaits

Tart Apple Buttermilk Cake

Recipes From Our Resident Expert, Marsha Rosen, RD
Here are some heart-healthy recipes provided by Marsha Rosen, RD (Registered Dietitian). Marsha is 
Mike Salem’s sister and in addition to offering private nutrition counselling, Marsha provides group lectures, seminars and cooking demonstrations.

If you have a nutrition question for our dietitian, you can email Marsha here…

Do you have a heart-healthy recipe that you would like to share? Send your recipes to info@mikeynetwork.com

When thinking of the term “exercising” we often think of team sports, or something that we can do as an individual, like running. The thought of ‘family’ doesn’t really come to mind, but often our families are where we first learned the basics of exercising. Kicking the soccer ball in the backyard, doing chores around the house, riding a bike or simply going for a walk around the block. These small activities laid the foundation for many of the exercises we continue to do throughout our lives.

Although many of us share memories of doing activities like these growing up, organizations like ParticipACTION are noticing that there is now a drop off in activity by youth. According to their study, only 9% of Canadian kids ages 5 to 11 accumulate the recommended guideline of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, at least six days a week.

Take steps now to combat this and it will be easier for you and your children to retain a heart-healthy lifestyle over each of your lives. There are many activities that you as a family can do together, and to help provide you with some ideas of fun things to do, we’re sharing 8 of our favorites.

Walk or a Hike

Going for a simple walk around the neighborhood can be a great activity for any age. If you’re looking for something more challenging, organizing a hike with your family can be a great way to maintain your physical fitness while seeing more of the great outdoors. Look at national parks in your area and make a day or weekend of it! Just make sure that you’re properly prepared if you do plan to go out into the wilderness.

Cycling

Families with members of all ages can definitely enjoy the benefits of cycling. The exercise can actually be better for older members of your family as it usually has less impact on the muscles and joints. Organize a bike ride around your neighborhood with your family and see the many parts of your community.

Swimming

Especially during the summer months, swimming can be a great activity for the whole family to enjoy and cool off. Many municipalities offer plenty of family time swims, as well as free swims at pools. If you’re really adventurous, take your family out for a beach day. There are a wide variety of beaches in Ontario, so get out there and explore!

Organize Family Play Times

This sounds super simple, because it is! Simply organize some fun games or sports that you can do in a park or in a backyard that will get you moving. Common games we love to play include, soccer, tag, and water fights. Want to get really creative? Invite extended family or friends from the neighborhood. They may be able to introduce your family to a new game or activity that you may not have been aware of.

Create An Activity Pack

Have some downtime with your family? Build a backpack of basic activity gear with items such as balls or other catch-and-throw objects (like a Frisbee), a jump rope, sidewalk chalk, pylons (to serve as targets or goal posts), a Dyna Band or any other equipment that suits your family’s interests. This pack will help save you on slower days.

Go To The Playground

The Playground offers endless opportunities of fun to be had. Ask your kids about fun games that they like to play with their friends during recess such as grounders, tag, hopscotch, monkey bars and 4-square. This can be difficult for some members of the family, as playgrounds aren’t really meant for adults and can be difficult to maneuver.

Yoga

Yoga is beneficial for anyone at any age. It allows you to center yourself and to stretch out many areas of your body to stay flexible and mobile. The best part is that you can do Yoga anywhere, so whether you’re at the beach, in the backyard, or at home, you’ll always have a space to do this great exercise.

If you would like more ideas on how to stay active with your family, we highly encourage you to go and check out the Participaction’s site. They have a plethora of programs and ideas to help keep you active.

  1. DO NOT SMOKE: if you have never smoked, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit. You will increase your life by 5 years for every year you are smoke free.
  2. Enjoy a balanced, nutritious diet. Limit fat intake to between 15% and 30% of your total number of daily calories.
  3. Exercise regularly, 20 minutes 3-4 times per week, or a minimum of a brisk walk daily.
  4. Moderate your intake of alcohol. Guidelines by Health Canada suggest limits of two drinks per day…either 12 oz. Beer, or 5 oz. Wine or 1.5 oz. Spirits.
  5. Limit your intake of salt and caffeine. (No more than the equivalent of four regular cups of coffee per day.)
  6. Try to get 8 hours of sleep each night.
  7. Have regular check-ups with your physician. Early detection is the key to a successful solution.
  8. Keep a positive attitude and wear a smile… it takes only 22 muscles to smile, but 37 to frown.
  9. Make time for leisure activities such as reading, hobbies, sports, TV etc.
  10. Invest in CPR and AED education and training, and encourage your family and friends to do the same.

Exercising regularly can be one of the most beneficial things that you can do for your heart health. Performing physical activity helps you to live longer and allows your body to run and perform better in the long-term. It’s advised that everyone should be performing 150 minutes of exercise a week to maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle.

But after suffering a heart attack or a cardiac arrest it can be a daunting thought to begin exercising again. What’s safe to do? What should I focus on? Where do I start?

Although you may face these questions with uncertainty, the truth is that there is almost no disease that doesn’t benefit from exercise in some way. As such, you shouldn’t give up, sit around and do nothing. You should focus on ways that you can begin to strengthen your body and improve your overall heart function.

Benefits of regular exercise for the heart include:

  • Strengthening your heart and cardiovascular system
  • Improving your circulation and helping your body use oxygen better
  • Improving your heart failure symptoms

Seek out a physician before you begin

Although we encourage you to exercise, we strongly recommend that before you do anything; you contact your physician to see what they recommend. They’ll understand your level of recovery and fitness level better than anyone else, and will be able to provide you with a detailed plan to begin exercising again.

Here are some questions that you should ask when you go to meet your doctor:

  • How much exercise can I do?
  • How often can I exercise?
  • What types of exercises should I do?
  • What activities should I avoid?
  • Should I hire a personal trainer to exercise with me?

After you have met with your doctor, they may recommend that you should go through a rehabilitation program to teach you how to safely become more active. You can find a cardiac rehab program in any province at cardiachealth.ca.

General workout tips

  • Focus on doing aerobic exercises when you begin working out again, rather than more complex movements like isometric exercises (pushups). Aerobic exercises are easier to perform and will help to make your heart stronger, while isometric could strain your muscles. Popular aerobic exercises include running, walking, and swimming.
  • Look at the forecast before your workout to avoid humid or cold days. Cold weather can increase your blood pressure, interrupt blood flow to part of the heart and make blood clots more likely to form. Humid weather can tire you out much quicker and can interfere with your circulation. On days when the weather is too hot or cold, aim to workout inside instead.
  • Make sure that you stay hydrated. It is important to drink water even before you feel thirsty, especially on hot days.

Starting to exercise

If your doctor has advised you that you’re all right to perform regular exercises instead of going to a rehabilitation center, we recommend that you slowly ease back into a workout routine. Everyone should perform 30 minutes of exercise a day, but it’s best if you go at a pace that you’re comfortable with; especially if you haven’t worked out in a long time.

Here is a simple workout that you can do anywhere.

Week 1 – 10-minute walk (Every second day)

Week 2 – 5-minute walk to warm up, a 10-minute walk, and 5-min cool-down.

Week 3 –  5-minute walk to warm up, a 15-minute walk, and 5-min cool-down.

Week 4 –  5-minute walk to warm up, a 20-minute walk, and 5-min cool-down.

Things to look out for

As you begin the transition back into exercising again, it’s important to remember to look for any symptoms of a heart attack during your workout. If you can, aim to workout with a partner for the first two months so that they can monitor you as you get back into the rhythm of going to the gym. While you workout both you and your partner should be conscious of:

  • Any chest pain
  • Weakness in your body
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Pressure or pain in your chest, neck, arm, jaw or shoulder, or any other symptoms that cause concern.

Exercising and making your way back towards a heart-healthy lifestyle will take time, so no matter what your results are initially; always aim to keep moving forward.

Understanding what types of heart-healthy foods to incorporate into your diet can be a confusing process. There are many articles online stating that certain foods or diet fads can benefit you; but who’s to know what is real and what isn’t? Fortunately for us, our Registered Dietitian, Marsha Rosen, has curated a list of heart-healthy foods that are highly beneficial for your diet.

Your list of foods for a balanced diet should include a variety of choices from all food groups.

Here are some excellent suggestions to begin with and build on.

10 Heart-Healthy Foods

Salmon – Salmon and other fatty fish like mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring, trout and arctic char; are extremely good for heart health as they contain plenty of omega-3 fats, which can help to lower the risk of heart disease. It’s recommended that you aim to eat at least 2 servings of fish a week.

There are three types of omega-3 fats:

  • ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)

All three types of omega-3 fats are important to have in your diet.

Other foods that contain omega-3 fats include:

  • Eggs
  • Margarine enriched with the omega-3 fat DHA – made with fish oil
  • Yoghurt – fortified with Omega-3
  • Soy beverage – Omega-3 fortified
  • Soybeans – edamame

Oatmeal – Oatmeal is a high in soluble fibre, which can help to lower cholesterol. It’s recommended that you avoid eating instant oatmeal, as it often will contain sugar, and instead opting for traditional old-fashioned oats.

Berries – Berries such as strawberries and blueberries are believed to carry antioxidants that help to decrease blood pressure and dilate blood vessels. This is attributed to the benefit of compounds known as anthocyanins, and flavonoids.

Potatoes – Although potatoes can be more challenging to your heart healthy dining, if you don’t deep fry them, they can be extremely good for your heart. They’re rich in potassium and high in fibre (if the skin is left on), which again, can help lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.

Tomatoes – Similar to potatoes, tomatoes are high in heart-healthy potassium. Plus they’re a good source of the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid that may help to get rid of “bad ” cholesterol, keep blood vessels open and lower heart attack risk.

Nuts – Any nuts that you consume are good for your heart fibre (As long as they’re not salted or contain added oils or fats), and also contain vitamin E, which helps to lower bad cholesterol.

Legumes – Legumes such as dried beans, peas and lentils, are an excellent source of protein without a lot of added fat.

Broccoli, spinach and kale – When it comes to your heart health, you can’t go wrong with vegetables. Green vegetables like broccoli, spinach or kale can give an extra boost to your heart. These are high in carotenoids, which act as antioxidants and can free your body of potentially harmful compounds. They’re also high in fibre and contain lots of vitamins and minerals.

Flax seeds – Flax seeds as well as chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and fibre content.

Avocado – These soft, tasty fruits will provide your body and heart with plenty of healthy fats. They’re composed of monounsaturated fats, high in antioxidants, and also contain potassium to help lower heart disease factors.

And finally:

When following these healthy food options, remember that those that are higher in fat – nuts, seeds, fatty fish, oils, even though they are heart-healthy fats, can work against you. How can that be?? If your portions of these foods are too large it can lead to unwanted weight gain which again will contribute to a less healthy you. Follow Canada’s Food Guide for suggested serving sizes.