February is Heart Month, making this the perfect opportunity to tune up your ticker by making a few small changes.

Heart disease impacts approximately 2.4 million Canadian adults. Whether you are currently living with it or trying to prevent it, lifestyle changes of diet and exercise are the most recommended course of action.

But what exactly do these entail? It’s easy to say eat healthier, exercise more, however, having specific goals make these things much easier to accomplish. So we’ve compiled a list of 5 simple steps you can take that are easily measurable and attainable in order to improve your heart health.

  1. Walk 10 minutes more. If you don’t currently have an exercise routine, start by walking for just 10 minutes a day. If you do, try adding an additional ten minutes of walking to your day. Research suggests walking in a green space or by the water enhances the health benefits, however, if the weather isn’t conducive, anywhere will do – your home, the mall, a gym, etc. Once you start moving more, other healthy habits will follow.
  2. Eat 1 extra fruit or vegetable a day. Most of us don’t get the recommended 5-10 fruits and vegetables a day. Adding just one more to your daily diet is a great way to slowly increase your consumption. In fact, new findings suggest that five servings a day (about two-and-a-half cups) slightly lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke. But bumping up produce intake to 10 servings a day may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by 28%.
  3. Drink 1 less sugary drink a day. This may not seem like a big change, but little things add up. For example, cutting out one pop or calorie-laden latte can easily save you 100 or more calories a day. Over a year, that can translate into a 10-pound weight loss.
  4. Schedule time with friends. At least a few times a month make the effort to get together with friends for coffee, a walk, or some other social activity. Socializing offers many health benefits by increasing feelings of happiness and decreasing levels of stress. But did you know that it can also lower blood pressure? So make time for your friends, and look for opportunities to expand your social circles.
  5. Start a gratitude journal. Begin each day by thinking of, or writing down, three things that you are grateful for. This will start your day off on a positive note, and over time, will lead to a more positive mindset. It has been found that people who practice an attitude of gratitude are more likely to take better care of their health, exercise more, and attend regular doctor check-ups, resulting in better overall health.

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