Starting tomorrow, February 1, Heart Month kicks off in Canada and the U.S. Heart Month began in Canada in 1958 when the Heart and Stroke Foundation created a modest door-to-door canvassing campaign to raise money for research. Thay raised $320,000 and have been going strong ever since. Today, 130,000 volunteers and two million donors play a role in fundraising for heart disease and stroke research.
Prevelance of cardiovascular health issues
Although the prevelance of heart disease and stroke in Canada has decreased by 75% since the founding of Heart and Stroke Foundation, these two conditions are still the second and third most common cause of death. There are an estimated 70,000 heart attacks every year, which is one every seven minutes. Nine out of 10 Canadians have at least one major risk factor for heart disease and 4 in 10 have at least three major risk factors.
Cost of heart disease and stroke
According to the Conference Board of Canada, heart disease and stroke cost the economy $20.9 billion each year in physician services, hospital costs, lost wages and decreased productivity. That's not counting the millions of hours of unpaid caregiving from family members and friends.
Are you at risk?
All of us have some risk for getting heart disease, and some of us are at higher risk than others. There are also some uncontrollable factors, as well as many risk factors that can be controlled through lifestyle choices.
- Age - the risk for heart disease doubles every 10 years after the age of 55
- Family history - family members who have had a stroke or heart attack puts you at a higher risk because of genes
- Gender - men have a higher risk than pre-menopausal women; however, after menopause, women have similar risk levels to their male counterparts
- Ethnicity - people of African or Asian descent have a higher risk of developing some form of heart disease
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High cholesterol
- Tobacco use
- Physical inactivity
- Type 2 diabetes
- Diet high in saturated fat
- Alcohol abuse
What you can do to lower your risk
- Find ways to lower stress - Meditation, yoga, exercise, counselling, gratitudes journaling, active hobbies, and even medication are all potential ways to lower stress in your life. Start by listing what's causing it, then think about how to solve each individual issue. Don't try to attack every issue at once; instead, taking it one step at a time. Reducing your stress can help lower blood pressure, support a smoke-free life, and lower the want to alcohol consumption.
- Get active - Numerous studies have shown that 30 minutes of moderate exercise (walking, deep cleaning, swimming, etc.) 3-5 times per week can have significant impacts on your health overall. It will help you lose weight, control your cholesterol, lower stress, and simply make you feel good.
- Watch your alcohol intake - Red wine and even beer has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease in various studies, but only if consumed in moderation (no more than 1 beer or 2 glasses of wine per day). France has one of the lowest rates of death due to heart disease, possibly because of their tradition of having a glass of wine nearly every day with supper. However, heavy drinking can have the opposite effect and actually increase your risk.
- Clean up your diet - This is probably one of the hardest suggestions for many people. However, eating a diet with lots of red meat, fried food, and saturated and trans fats could be killing you from the inside out. Check out Dietitians of Canada's website for ideas of a heart-healthy diet. There are also many recipes you can find that not only taste delicious but are wonder for your body by searching 'heart healthy recipes'.
- Quit smoking - There are many great programs sponsored by hospitals and other great resources like the Smoker’s Helpline on the web or 877-513-5333.
Take the time this month to commit to changing your lifestyle to improve the health of your heart and the rest of your body. Get support by involving your friends and family and encouraging them to do the same. Together, we can protect our hearts and health!