From the Heart and Stroke Foundation

The Heart and Stroke Foundation encourages Canadians to learn about what constitutes healthy blood pressure readings, cholesterol levels and lifestyle habits. Here's a guide to help you learn the basics and get on track to a healthy heart.

Blood pressure

An optimal blood pressure reading is below 120/80 mm Hg. However, if you have several risk factors for heart disease and stroke or other problems related to high blood pressure (such as kidney disease), your doctor may decide to treat your blood pressure.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Healthy body mass index ranges between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2. Calculate your BMI. If your BMI is higher than 25, speak to your doctor about achieving a healthy weight.

Cholesterol levels

The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends that men over 40 and women over 50 have their cholesterol checked. However, if you have any risk factors for heart disease and stroke, you may need to have your cholesterol tested at an earlier age. Talk to your doctor who will establish a target level for you based on your personal risk factors, taking into account your age, total cholesterol level, smoking status, and systolic blood pressure, among other factors.

Heart-healthy diet

Grain products: Aim for most of your bread, cereal, pasta and rice servings to be 100% whole grain.

Vegetables and fruit: Have vegetables and fruit at every meal and snack. Choose colourful vegetables and fruit to get the most nutrients.

Milk products: Choose lower-fat products such as skim milk, cheese and yogurt whenever possible.

Meat and alternatives: Limit consumption of meat and try to get your protein from alternative sources such as beans, nuts and fish whenever possible.

Fibre: 25 to 30 grams a day.

Total fat: 20 to 35% of daily calories. This is about 45 to 75 grams for women or 60 to 105 grams for men. A tablespoon (15 mL) of oil has 14 grams of fat.

Keep your intake of trans and saturated fat intakes as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet. Read labels for trans fat content (aim for less than 2 grams per serving). Saturated fat is found in meat and dairy products.

Salt intake: The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends Canadians consume no more that 2,300 mg (the equivalent of about 1 tsp/ 5mL) of salt a day total from processed foods and salt added during food preparation. Look for the sodium values in the Nutrition Fact tables on food packages and in recipe nutrient analyses. If you have high blood pressure, consult your physician for specific dietary recommendations.

Alcohol: No more than one drink a day for women, two a day for men.

Learn about the basics of healthy eating.

Physical activity

Men and women should get 30 to 60 minutes a day, most days of the week. Read more about your physical activity needs.

Waist circumference

Women should have a waist circumference of 88 cm (35 inches) or less.

Men should have a waist circumference of 102 cm (40 inches) or less.


Do not smoke or use any tobacco products. Avoid exposure to second-hand smoke.

If you have any questions or concerns about your health, discuss them with your doctor.

Heart and Stroke Foundation


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This article has been independently researched, written and reviewed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and is based on scientific evidence. The information is for reference and education only. This web article is not intended to be a substitute for a physician'‘s advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should consult your physician for specific information on personal health matters. The Heart and Stroke Foundation assumes no responsibility or liability arising from any error in, or omission of, information or from the use of any information or advice contained within this article.

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