Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canadians. The most common type of heart condition is coronary artery disease. This occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries, leading to decreased blood flow and oxygen to the heart.
The good news is that heart disease is preventable and manageable. Within our daily lives, we have the power to make smart decisions to lower our risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke in the future.
Become educated and proactive by considering these heart-healthy steps:
Be smoke-free and avoid second-hand smoke Smoking damages and narrows the blood vessels, and increases cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Compared to non-smokers, tobacco users are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease and 6 times more likely to suffer a heart attack.
Lower your blood pressure if it is elevated Blood pressure is considered high if it remains ≥140/90 mmHg over a period of time and can begin to progressively damage or narrow the lining of the arteries. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor to discuss methods to reduce your blood pressure.
Consume a healthy diet and keep cholesterol levels in check Try to consume a varied diet that involves low levels of saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol and salt. Instead of denying all of your favourite foods, the idea is to make heart healthy foods your priority and allow yourself to celebrate with these unhealthy foods occasionally. Some cholesterol is necessary for health but an excess can lead to fatty deposits, which decrease or block the oxygen-rich blood to the heart.
Speak to your pharmacist or doctor to discuss methods to reduce your cholesterol
Be physically active Regular exercise can lower many risk factors, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. On the contrary, a sedentary lifestyle might be worse than using a bit of tobacco. Unless your doctor instructs you otherwise, the general guideline is to try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on a near daily basis. (Note: Before starting a new exercise program, ask your doctor to assess if your heart is healthy enough).
- Keep stress under control The most common reported trigger for a heart attack is an emotional event, especially involving anger. Sudden changes in blood flow can contribute to blockages in the arteries, so give yourself a time out when under stress. Remember, little changes go a long way! Start it off by setting reasonable heart conscious goals for yourself and your family.
- Written By: Frank Leung, B.Sc. Pharmacy Manager