Taking Care of your Heart
Heart Month aims to bring attention to the importance of taking care of a vital organ – the heart.
Committing to a healthy lifestyle and making small changes that can lead to a lifetime of heart health is one of the best ways to prevent heart disease. In fact, eighty percent of premature deaths caused by heart disease can be avoided by taking steps to take better care of your heart.
As heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada, it’s important to understand heart disease, the risk factors that cause it, and how to make changes to your lifestyle to prevent it.
Let’s start with describing how a healthy heart works. In general, the heart is a muscle that works like a pump. It circulates blood throughout the body and gives tissues the oxygen and nutrients they need to keep them functioning properly and efficiently. The blood also takes the body’s waste products away from the tissues, which is necessary to keep all parts of the body healthy. Therefore, our heart plays a vital role in keeping us alive and healthy.
Heart disease is a general term that means the heart is not working properly due to a group of conditions that affect the structure and functions of the heart. There are many types of heart disease, such as coronary heart disease, heart attack and congenital heart disease. Although all heart diseases are different, they all have common risk factors that can make it more likely for certain individuals to develop heart disease. Some risk factors cannot be controlled, such as family history and age; however, there are many that we do have control over.
The following are some things you can you do reduce your risk of heart disease:
- Add exercise to your daily routine. Start off by walking for 10 to 15 minutes, 3 times each week and slowly increase until you are exercising for 30 minutes regularly. 150 minutes or more per week can help reduce your risk of both heart disease and stroke. Remember to encourage your children, family members and friends to be active as well!
- Increase healthy eating. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, a variety of whole grain products, lean meat, fish, peas, beans, lentils, and foods low in saturated and trans fats. Be wary of processed foods, which often contain high levels of salt. Try to avoid drinking alcohol or if you do drink, make sure it is in moderation. Drink lots of water!
- Take steps to quit smoking. If you stop smoking, your risk of coronary heart disease will be halved within a year and will return to a normal level over time. Avoid smoke-filled environments: exposure to secondhand smoke significantly increases the risk of heart disease.
- Take steps to reduce stress. Learn to identify the things that are causing you stress so you can deal with them effectively.
- Take medication as prescribed. Talk with your healthcare provider about the importance of high blood pressure and cholesterol medications. If you’re having trouble taking your medicines on time or if you’re having side effects, ask your healthcare provider for help.
Time to See Red Campaign
#TimeToSeeRed is a national awareness campaign that was launched by the Heart & Stroke Foundation to help close the deadly gap in women’s heart and brain health.
Although heart disease is the number one killer of women over the age of 35, it is still very misunderstood. This is because women have been underrepresented and under studied in terms of heart health.
Dr. Paula Harvey, Director of the Cardiovascular Research Program at Women’s College Hospital, explains the importance of working towards a better understanding of women’s heart health: “Historically heart disease and stroke were viewed as men’s diseases… Research was based on the incorrect assumption that what worked for a man would work for a woman, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all”.
The #TimeToSeeRed campaign aims to share education on the risks of heart disease and the different signs and symptoms of heart disease and stroke that women may experience. It also aims to encourage the healthcare system to develop proper diagnostic tools and therapies to properly diagnose and treat women. Too many women’s live have been cut short – it’s time to make a change.
Take one small step
The main message to remember this heart month is to take care of your heart because it matters… a lot. And the good new is that there are many small steps you can take to reduce your risk of heart disease and to improve your overall health. So consider taking a step towards better heart health by making one healthy lifestyle change today! And remember, every step counts!
For more information, visit the Heart & Stroke website at: https://www.heartandstroke.ca/
To learn more about the #TimeToSeeRed campaign and to learn more about women’s heart disease, go to the following website: https://www.heartandstroke.ca/women