Heart health has always been important to me. Sort of. I mean, who doesn’t want a healthy heart? For me, it was a matter of wanting it AND making it a priority. But I’m too busy. I’m too tired. I’m too ____________ (insert word here) to change my heart healthy life habits. It just all seemed so overwhelming. Then, my mom had some minor heart problems develop. My brother had a stroke. My own doctor sat me down for a serious talk about my cholesterol levels and my high blood pressure. Wake up calls surrounded me.
Did you know?
Cardiovascular diseases are among the leading causes of death for Canadian men and women despite being largely preventable. In fact, research indicates that up to 80% of premature heart disease and stroke is preventable by adopting healthy living behaviours.
Simple lifestyle changes can help with preventing cardiovascular disease. These include improved nutrition such as reduced sodium intake, eating more fruits and vegetables, adding more lean meats and fish to your diet, substituting whole grains and lower-fat dairy products wherever possible, and adding nuts and seeds to your eating plan (my doctor recommended a handful a day for me).
Healthy lifestyle habits can also delay the onset of heart disease or stroke by as much as 14 years.
So, what’s a really busy person like me to do? Head to Loblaws, of course! If you are a long-time reader, you know I’m a Loblaws fangirl and for good reason. They are a staple in my life and a vital part of my healthcare team. The first step on the road to a healthier heart for me (after seeing my doctor) was to book an appointment with my local Loblaws dietitian, Elyse. Before we even got together, Elyse prepared for our meeting by having me fill out a questionnaire to get a basic understanding of my current health situation and health habits.
Once together, she put my mind at ease by letting me know that she wasn’t going to be suggesting any major overhaul of my life. She promoted baby steps – making one change at a time because each one is a step towards better heart health and each one counts. She knew that these changes had to fit into my life. They had to be easy to implement, despite my busy schedule. So, she began by outlining the basics needed for improving my blood cholesterol levels. Overall changes included aiming for a healthy body weight, selecting fat sources wisely, and eating food high in soluble fibre, among others.
As we went through each of those points, I was really impressed at how she broke them down into smaller, more manageable steps. Elyse showed me how to decipher the nutritional content labels on food, by giving me only one number to focus on for now. First, I’m looking at the Guiding Stars – the food rating system that Loblaws uses to measure nutrient density, giving us a quick and easy way to grab healthier choices in the store. Then, she has me checking food labels to choose products lower in saturated and trans fat – if it has 15% or more of either of those, I am leaving it on the shelf.
No calculations to make, just a really quick and easy way to choose what products I’m going to buy. We also talked about simple meals and snacks that I could make as well as minor food changes and substitutions that would slide right into my current eating plan. I left my meeting with Elyse with a simple action plan; very specific steps tailored to me and easily incorporated into my lifestyle. Once those have become second nature to me, I can return to meet with her again and continue on my journey to heart health.
We also talked about simple meals and snacks that I could make as well as minor food changes and substitutions that would slide right into my current eating plan. I left my meeting with Elyse with a simple action plan; very specific steps tailored to me and easily incorporated into my lifestyle. Once those have become second nature to me, I can return to meet with her again and continue on my journey to heart health.
After my appointment with the dietitian, she took me to the pharmacy to learn more about the services there. Of course, the pharmacist is always available to offer information on a variety of healthcare issues, including a heart health risk assessment. But, at the pharmacy, I was also introduced to the in-store Wellness Station. This was new to me and a very exciting addition to their healthcare offerings. It’s a machine that can check your weight, your blood pressure, your pulse, and provide an estimate on your overall BMI. Not only that, but you create a private profile on the machine, and then it can track your results over time, providing you with an ongoing record. You can login in from home and access your records there as well, further rounding out your healthcare progress and plans.
Loblaws provides just the right balance of healthcare services for me. They give me tools like the Guiding Stars system, the action plan from the dietitian and the Wellness Station that empower me and allow me to track and monitor my own healthcare. At the same time though, I don’t have to feel like I’m all alone in this journey. I have a whole team behind me, ready to offer advice and encouragement as I need it.
Don’t skip a beat when it comes to heart health; nutrition and lifestyle changes you make now can help prevent issues later.
So, what about you? Are you ready to take charge of your heart health? Well, here’s a simple three-step action plan that will put you on the road to better cardiovascular health:
Book a free appointment with a registered dietitian at Loblaws. They can help you with information about food to support your heart health. Your appointment can be tailored to your particular health needs and lifestyle.
While at the store, visit the in-store pharmacist. They can help you track and monitor your health and manage your medications.
Register on the in-store Wellness Station. The machine will take some basic readings. From there, you can monitor and track them over time to gain a continuing picture of your heart health.