February is Heart Health month so it’s a great opportunity to discuss the things you can do to improve the health of your heart.

First, it’s important to recognize that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally. In the USA, 1 in 5 deaths every year are related to cardiovascular disease. The top risk factors for CV disease are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, overweight and obesity, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use.

Here are seven action steps that you can incorporate immediately to improve the health of your heart and reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease:

1- Daily Steps

Walking is the simplest way to increase your cardiovascular exercise and is highly effective, can be done anywhere and doesn’t require any special equipment. Strive for 5000 steps daily (approx. 3 miles) and progress to 10,000 steps (approx. 6 miles) per day as often as possible.

2- Muscle Conditioning

We all recognize that developing your muscles can positively impact muscle strength, bone density and metabolism, but recent studies are also showing that muscle conditioning has a positive impact on the health of your heart. Try full body muscle conditioning twice per week to provide a significant cardiovascular benefit.

3- Relax

Incorporate yoga, deep breathing and/or meditation into your weekly workout regime to help reduce your stress levels, which will positively affect the health of your heart.

4 – Stop Smoking

If you smoke, the best thing you can do for the health of your heart and to increase your longevity, is to stop. 

5 – Ideal Body Weight

Strive for a caloric intake and energy expenditure that allows you to maintain an optimal body weight and body fat level for your frame.

6 – Go Mediterranean

The Mediterranean Diet, regarded as the most effective nutrition approach to minimizing the risk for cardiovascular disease, emphasizes plant-based foods and healthy fats. Strive to eat mostly veggies, fruits, legumes, beans, nuts, whole grains, fish and lean cuts of meat, and use extra virgin olive oil as your main source of fat. Reduce your sugar intake and processed foods.

7 – Minimize Alcohol

If you choose to drink, limit your intake as much as possible. If you do not drink alcohol, don’t start.

Yours in health & fitness,
Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at nwpersonaltraining.com.

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