?Tis the season…to protect your heart While you?re making resolutions, don?t forget about your heart health

After spending the holiday season shopping and dining with friends and family, Canadians should ring in the New Year with a better understanding of cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, Canadians don?t realize that worldwide, more heart attacks occur during this season than at any other time of the year.

Several seasonal factors contribute to this increase in heart attack including: temperature changes, lack of exercise, increased intake of rich foods and alcohol, biological factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, snow shoveling, and stress. The good news is that there are simple steps that Canadians can take to ensure their winter is a happier and healthier one.

Follow these five important heart-healthy tips:

1. Try and avoid rich, high-fat foods and binge drinking – High-sugar or high-fat foods place stress on the heart as they are digested and binge drinking can produce problems like high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms.

2. Make regular physical activity part of your winter routine – Physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight, reduce high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, manage stress and cut your risk of heart disease and stroke.

3.Be aware of outdoor activities that can put stress on the heart – People underestimate just how strenuous shoveling snow can be. The increase in physical activity requires your heart to work harder and cold temperatures can increase the viscosity, or thickness, of circulating blood.

4. Understand the signs of a heart attack – It is common for people to initially shrug off chest pain as indigestion. Educate yourself and your friends and family on the signs of a heart attack. Visit www.makingtheconnection.ca to find out warning signs of a heart attack, calculate your heart age to find out if you?re at risk, and sign up for Making the Connection?s 5-Step program, a personalized action plan for your heart health.

5. Take time to relax and stay positive – At any time of the year, stress can affect the heart, but the winter season can be particularly stressful for people with many commitments.