5 Ways to Improve Your Heart Health

One in five deaths is related to heart disease1. In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds, and in Canada, it’s every 4 minutes2. I certainly know many people affected by cardiovascular disease and I’m sure you do too. Rather than dwell on the depressing stats, let’s talk about what you can do if you’re at risk of heart disease.

First of all, don’t forget that 90% of cardiovascular disease is caused by modifiable diet and lifestyle factors. With that in mind, here are 5 ways to improve your heart health.

1. Up your fibre intake.

Across 31 meta-analyses, fibre intake was negatively correlated with cardiovascular disease3. Dietary fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, includes the parts of plant foods your body can't digest or absorb. It passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine and colon and out of your body. Research shows that fiber can lower blood sugar as much as some diabetes medications, lower cholesterol, and promote weight loss4!

Both types of fibre are beneficial. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. Helps lower blood sugar. It's found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium. Insoluble fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system (helps with constipation) and increases stool bulk. It's found in wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes.

Experts recommend a minimum of 25-38g of fibre per day (I would argue closer to 40-50g, depending on a few factors). Here’s the kicker though, the Canadian Diabetes Association states that the average Canadian is only getting 4.5-11g daily. You can click here to view a sample of my daily fibre intake when I tracked it years ago. 

2. Aim for 5+ servings of vegetables, daily.

Aside from the obvious of cooking more veggies, here are some tips to get more vegetables in daily: 

  • ​​Try replacing pasta & noodles with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles (or going ½ and ½).
  • Batch cook roast veggies at the beginning of the week for an easy side.
  • Clean and cut up veggie sticks to snack on throughout the week.
  • Add a handful of mixed greens to the base of a meal.
  • Add a handful of spinach or kale to smoothies, eggs, or saucy meals.
  • Chop up veggies into tiny pieces to add into sauces (try carrots, onions, garlic, or celery). 
  • Don’t fret about frozen – this time of year there is less fresh produce, but frozen produce can be both a nutrient-dense and cost-effective way to up your veggies (and fibre).

3. Get moving.

You probably know this, but exercise is proven to lower blood pressure, lessen risk of developing diabetes, maintain healthy body weight, and reduce inflammation throughout the body. When chatting with my clients who don’t have a consistent exercise routine, it’s often perfectionism at fault. One of the biggest messages I have around exercise is that it done is better than perfect! Quantity over quality! 

In one study, where 90,000 people were split into 4 groups based on activity level, just moving from the least-active group to the not-quite-as-inactive group dropped the risk of heart disease by almost 30 percent5.

Here are a few ways to get moving more:

  • Start small, even just 5 minutes a day. 
  • "Stack" your movement onto other activities (more on that from James Clear).
  • Brushing your teeth? Add in a wall sit.
  • Waiting for the coffee to brew? Do some lunges.
  • Have a work call? Do it walking. 
  • Schedule your exercise throughout the week.
  • Have an accountability buddy.

4. Use mindfulness to reduce your stress.

While diet is important, stress is a major cause of inflammation and in turn, can affect heart health too. One of the reasons meditation is so effective is it appears to produce changes in brain activity. It can lower your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, adrenaline levels, and levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress. In fact, those who have a meditation practice are much less likely to have a heart attack or stroke or die within five years6.

5. Use continuous glucose monitoring to track your blood sugar levels.

One of the biggest risk factors for heart disease is diabetes. If you recall from our diabetes prevention article last week, 90% of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are preventable through diet and lifestyle. The problem is that the typical diabetes guidance doesn’t actually work. I did a quick check on diabetes.ca for recipes and I came across an oat pancake recipe that was a suggested breakfast recipe. Not only would that cause a significant spike in blood sugar, but it would leave you feeling tired an hour or two later and probably craving something sweet too.

One of the reasons continuous glucose monitoring is so effective is that it shows you how YOUR individual body metabolizes different foods, so that you can see which ones cause a HUGE spike in blood sugar, and which ones a more balanced spike. Getting the real-time feedback on how that breakfast (or pancakes) affected you specifically is very motivating.

This is why I’m so excited to run another round of our Balance Your Blood Sugar Program.

If you are at risk of heart disease and would like to take a preventative approach to manage your risk, I encourage you to join the program. It allows you to feel in control of your body and food choices using real-time data to see how food is impacting your blood sugar and body. Participants in our last round lost weight, had more energy, slept better, improved their pre-diabetes and heart disease risk, and learned how to eat optimally for their body, in just 4 weeks.

Click here to learn more about the Balance Your Blood Sugar Program.


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
  2. https://www.canada.ca › publications › diseases-conditions
  3. PMC: 5731843
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983
  5. PLOS Medicine: 1003487
  6. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/meditation-offers-significant-heart-benefits

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