website creator February is dedicated to heart month. I’ve posted Grow with Nutrition blogs in 2011 and 2012, discussing the themes to raise awareness about heart health. To celebrate heart month, my February Barley Balance blog identifies the good things found in that nutrient packed grain such as beta-glucans to promote heart health.

Health promotion prevents many major chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, some Heart Diseases, Obesity, Arthritis and Osteoporosis. A study from the Ontario government (seven years ago!) found 90% of Type 2 Diabetes, 80% of Coronary Heart Disease and 33% of Cancers can be avoided when a population implements healthy eating, exercises regularly and does not smoke (1).

As a health professional living and working in a country with a failing publicly funded health care system, I find it frustrating so much of our taxes are spent on disease management and not on disease prevention.We have some of the highest preventable stats when compared to other publicy funded health care systems in the world!heart month

This year, the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s theme for heart month is Create More Survivors. Let’s celebrate three ways to create more survivors and promote heart health through eating a healthy diet, activating a fitness routine and minimizing stress.

1.  Eat a Healthy Diet

Practise what Grandma said, “Load up on the fruits and veggies, eat whole grains like barley and oats and learn how to cook!” A study looked at the combined effect of three sources of soluble fibre: plant sterols, vegetable proteins and viscous fibres. The participants, who were already following a low-saturated fat diet prior to the study, followed a diet for one month that was high in the three soluble fibre sources. Fasting blood lipids, blood pressure, and body weight were measured. The results showed that the combination diet reduced serum LDL (bad) cholesterol by 29% and the LDL: HDL (good) cholesterol ratio by 27%. In conclusion, this diet was effective in reducing risk factors for Cardiovascular Disease (2).

2.  Activate a Fitness Routine

Technology is great for many reasons; however, it has our population sitting more than ever. Switch it up and implement a fitness routine. A study explored the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and cardiovascular risk factors. The participants included 59,820 men and 22,192 women aged 20-90. The participants completed a medical examination, where a series of cardiovascular risk factors were measured. The participants also completed a maximal graded exercise treadmill test. The results showed that regular cardio exercise was effective in reducing risk factors for Cardiovascular Disease (3).

3.  Minimize Stress

Finances, long winters, longer commute times, too much work, not enough play, annoying in-laws and the list can go on. Make sure you are taking mini-breaks and longer breaks from the stressors in your life, as continual, long-term distress is associated with Cardiovascular Disease. A study examined the associations between psychological distress, cortisol response and coronary artery calcification. The results showed that long-term, but not current psychological distress was associated with a higher risk of severe coronary artery calcification. The key findings identify the participants with long-term psychological distress and high cortisol reactivity showed the highest prevalence of severe coronary artery calcification (4).

Heart Month 2014 Bottom Line

Let’s Create More Survivors and promote heart health (instead of managing heart disease) through eating a healthy diet, activating a fitness routine, minimizing stress and if you smoke, it’s time to quit.


  1. Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, (2007).Preventing and managing chronic disease: Ontario’s framework. Retrieved from website:
  2. Jenkins D et al. A dietary portfolio approach to cholesterol reduction: Combined effects of plant sterols, vegetable proteins, and viscous fibres in hypercholesterolemia. Metabolism. 2002;51(12):1596-1604.
  3. Grundy S, Barlow C, Farrell S, Vega G , Haskell, W. Cardiorespiratory fitness and metabolic risk. The American Journal of Cardiology. 2012;10:988-993.
  4. Seldenrijk A, Hamer M, Lahiri A, Penninx B, Steptoe A. Psychological distress, cortisol stress response and subclinical coronary calcification. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012; 37:48-55.