Fulfillment

Do Your Heart a Favour

Making small changes to your diet and fitness habits will not only help you lose weight, you also could reap some big health benefits.

It's the time of year when thoughts turn to love. Usually, we find someone we're fond of and make them our Valentine, showering them with attention and perhaps a special gift. This February, in honor of Heart Month, turn that affection inward and show a little love to your own heart.

Cardiovascular disease is the number two killer in Canada, causing more than 48,000 deaths each year. "Eat right and exercise" is a familiar refrain to us all. According to the Heart and Stroke foundation, making changes to your diet and fitness habits to help you lose weight, you could reap some big health benefits.

"Losing even a small amount of weight can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease," says Alice Lichtenstein, D.Sc., chair of the American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee and professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University in Boston. "It also sets you up for a positive experience, which can motivate you to continue that downward trend. The closer you get to a healthy body weight, the better off you'll be, but you have to start somewhere — and every little bit helps."

Ready to show your very own built-in Valentine some love? If you're following the Weight Watchers plan, you're already giving your heart a healthy boost. Ridding yourself of excess body weight can go a long way to lowering blood pressure and improving insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes. A diet rich in healthy fats can help your circulatory system, and many fruits and vegetables are packed with natural heart-healthy compounds. Cardiovascular exercise, a key component of the Weight Watchers plan, also helps nourish your heart by improving the flow of oxygen-rich blood to this vital muscle, says Lichtenstein.