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About one third of all deaths globally are due to heart disease.1 However, with simple lifestyle changes, more Canadians can reduce the risk of developing heart disease. In fact, eight in 10 cases of premature heart disease and stroke cases can be prevented with healthy lifestyle behaviours.2

What are the risk factors for heart disease?

Everyone’s risk of developing heart disease is different, and while there are certain factors that can’t change, all individuals have some degree of control over our heart health.

Heart disease risk factors that cannot be controlled include a family history of heart disease, aging and ethnicity. For example, some South Asian, Chinese, black and First Nations populations face a higher risk of heart disease compared to other groups. 3,4

Luckily, there are also plenty of risk factors that can be controlled, including; physical inactivity, obesity, alcohol use, smoking and poor diet.1,3 In fact, there are some heart disease risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure that Canadians can better manage through a healthy diet.2,3

What role does nutrition play in heart health?

Cardiovascular disease is a serious public health concern in Canada. Close to 50% of deaths from cardiovascular disease in 2017 were attributed to dietary behaviours. Dietary behaviours that increase the risk of heart disease include low intake of nutritious foods, such as vegetables and fruit. In Canada, vegetable and fruit intakes are consistently low.5

A healthy diet can help reduce the risk of developing heart disease by:6

  • Reducing LDL cholesterol
  • Decreasing blood pressure
  • Managing body weight
  • Controlling blood sugar

Try recommending plant-based eating to your clients. For more information, click here.

Dietary fats and heart health

Choosing the right fats can make a difference to overall heart health. Canada’s Dietary Guidelines recommend that Canadians reduce consumption of foods that contain mostly saturated fat.5

Replacing those foods with ones that contain mostly unsaturated fat (polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat) decreases LDL-cholesterol levels, while not increasing total energy.5,7

Currently, one in two Canadians consume amounts of saturated fat above the recommended limit.5


  1. Heart and Stroke Foundation. Get healthy. 2019. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
  2. Sacks FM, et al. Dietary fats and cardiovascular disease - A presidential advisory from the American Heart Association. Circulation 2017;136:e1–e23. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
  3. Government of Canada. Prevention of heart diseases and conditions. 2017. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
  4. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease - genetics and family history. 2015. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
  5. Health Canada. Canada’s dietary guidelines for health professionals and policy makers. 2019. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
  6. Heart and Stroke Foundation. Healthy eating basics. 2019. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
  7. US Department of Agriculture. Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Eighth edition. Sourced Dec 5, 2019.
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