February is Heart Month in Canada! Promoted by Health Canada, Heart Month aims to raise awareness for heart-related illnesses and causes, while encouraging Canadians to take action to improve upon their own personal heart health.

Heart disease is still one of the leading causes of death in Canada, second only to cancer. How many Canadians live with heart disease?

According to a report from the Public Health Agency of Canada published July 2017, based on the most recent data, about 2.4 million (8.5%) Canadian adults aged 20 years and older live with diagnosed ischemic heart disease, including 578,000 (2.1%) with a history of a heart attack.

About 669,600 (3.6%) Canadian adults aged 40 years and older live with diagnosed heart failure.

And we know heart disease is largely preventable – 80% of risk factors are within your control to change! Risk can be reduced by:

  • exercising for at least 30 minutes a day
  • maintaining a healthy diet
  • watching your weight
  • getting regular checkups if possible
  • stopping smoking
  • managing stress
  • limiting alcohol intake

So, what does this mean to the workplace?

There are many ways employers can build awareness and help employees to take steps to reduce the risk of heart disease and make healthier lifestyle choices. Offering smoking cessation programs, healthy lifestyle programs such as walking teams, onsite healthy eating programs, sleep awareness sessions and onsite cholesterol and blood pressure monitoring programs are a few ways to start.

Employers can circulate access to resources that inform employees about actions they can take to mitigate preventable risk, like those available at the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

These types of programs can be offered all year round and we know there are many great benefits to employees, including the prevention of disease and promotion of good heart heath. But how do you get employees involved, especially those who do not normally participate?

If you really want to spike employees’ interests and involvement in a fun and healthy way, try planning programs that bring people together and celebrate an event – like February’s Valentine’s Day!

We spend almost half our waking hours in the workplace so why not make more of that time healthy and fun! We know there are many great benefits to both the employee and the employer when we increase our physical activity levels, including heart health, better mental health, and improved quality of sleep.

Get started now! There is still time to create fun in your workplace in celebration of Valentine’s Day!

Here are a few ideas for you to try in your workplace:

Heart Healthy Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is a great reminder to focus on heart health. Get active by encouraging walking, hiking, or running. Start a healthy recipe exchange group. Invite a local nutritionist to come in and provide a seminar on cooking healthy foods. Don’t forget to promote any health-related benefits you offer, like gym membership discounts or fitness classes.

Spread Love to the Community
Valentine’s Day is the perfect time of year to show love to not just your partner and family, but also to those in need. Support a local charity and spread the love! Encourage your team to plan an activity that can include the whole team and gives back to the community. Host a healthy competition between departments to raise funds and donate them to a local charity. Try to offer more than one way to get people involved so that everyone can participate and at different times.

Think Red
Host an all red health break time for your team! Include red bell peppers, radicchio, cherries, strawberries, red beans, red onions and tomatoes. These are good examples of foods that are all packed with vitamins, cancer-fighting antioxidants or cholesterol-busting fiber and protein.

Wear Red Canada
On February 13th, 2020 to raise awareness about women’s heart health in Canada. Encourage everyone to dress casually, but all red! Celebrate by recognizing the best dressed red-wearing employee at a ‘red party’ (mid-afternoon healthy heart snack time). Don’t know where to start? Check out Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre for more great ideas. Heart disease is the leading cause of premature death for women in Canada.

Treat Yourself
For your after-workday Valentines’ Day pleasure, a five-ounce glass of red wine is said to help reduce the risk of blood clots and keep the cardiovascular system in tune. According to the Mayo Clinic, a moderate amount of red wine may have positive effects on cholesterol levels due to a naturally occurring compound called resveratrol. So, skip that high-sugar cocktail and enjoy a glass of red wine instead!

Check out Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month for lots of healthy ideas to get your employees active and connected during the month of February.

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