Let’s deal with the grim news first. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, 9 out of 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease or stroke. Their website goes on to say that “Heart disease and stroke continue to be the second leading cause of death in Canada…”. Now the great news. You can protect your heart and reduce your risk simply by adopting a few good habits. If you already have heart disease, these lifestyle changes can help improve your health. Continue reading for suggestions on how to lead a heart-smart life.
Get a grasp on CAD
It is important to understand what you are trying to prevent or control. Heart disease includes several conditions, the most common being coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD occurs when the arteries in the heart are blocked or narrowed. Since your heart is a muscle, it needs a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood in order to keep pumping. With CAD, the blood supply decreases which can lead to angina (chest pain) and heart attack. There are several risk factors associated with CAD. The more of them you have, the greater your chance of developing heart disease. There are some risk factors over which you have no control, such as age (males over 55 years of age, post-menopausal females) and family history of heart disease and stroke. You can, however, control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, blood sugar levels in diabetes and your weight, all of which can lead to a healthier heart.
Healthy habits to live by
Here’s how to make over your lifestyle to prevent heart disease. If you have CAD, these guidelines will help slow down its progression, helping keep you fit and strong.
1. Stop smoking
Using tobacco products or being exposed to second-hand smoke increases your chance of developing heart disease. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation website, “Smoking contributes to the buildup of plaque in your arteries, increases the risk of blood clots, reduces the oxygen in your blood, increases your blood pressure and makes your heart work harder.” Soon after you quit, your body rapidly starts to heal from the damage caused by cigarettes. Within a year, your risk of a smoking-related heart attack is reduced by 50 percent. To butt out, consider tools such as nicotine replacement patches or chewing gum, support groups or hypnosis.
2. Be active
Get a move on to protect your ticker. . The Public Health Agency of Canada publishes “Get Active Tip Sheets” for people of all ages. You can find them on their website. If fitness is new to you, start slowly and work up to the suggested amount. Swimming or joining a walking group are super ways to introduce movement into your daily routine. Remember, it’s important to consult your doctor before beginning a fitness program.
3. Eat right
To care for your heart, the Heart and Stroke Foundation advises a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low fat dairy products, with meat and alternatives in servings the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand. For healthy eating support, follow Canada’s Food Guide. Limit alcohol consumption to 2 drinks a day for women (maximum of 10 per week) and 3 drinks a day for men (maximum of 15 per week) as long as it is safe for you to drink alcohol, given your medical conditions and activities. Shy away from items high in calories, fat, sugar and salt. Saturated and trans fats in your diet can increase your risk of developing heart disease. For more information visit the Health Canada’s Food and Nutrition website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca.
4. Watch your waistline
If you’re overweight, slimming down will help control more than one risk factor for heart disease. Losing weight lowers your blood pressure level, reduces blood cholesterol and helps with diabetes. A nutritious diet and exercise regimen are vital to losing weight and keeping it off, as is portion control. Here’s a trick to prevent eating too much or too little at one meal: Fill 1/2 your plate with veggies, 1/4 with whole grains and 1/4 with lean protein.
5. Harness your stress
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the relationship between stress and heart disease isn’t clear. People with high levels of stress for a long time may have higher cholesterol and blood pressure and may be more likely to suffer from narrowing of the arteries, all of which can take a toll on your ticker. Lighten your stress load with activities such as exercise, laughing and relaxing, regular vacations and meditation.
6. Monitor your blood pressure
High blood pressure can lead to stroke and heart disease. To ensure your blood pressure is and stays normal, take regular readings at your local Rexall™ pharmacy. Normal isn’t the same for everyone. Your health care professional will work with you to determine what your blood pressure goal should be. If it’s high, your prescriber will develop a treatment plan, which will undoubtedly include the aforementioned lifestyle tips.
7. Consider Low Dose ASA
Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) can help lower the risk of heart attacks and stroke.. However, ASA isn’t suitable for everyone, so get approval from your primary healthcare provider before taking it regularly. If you get the go-ahead, then select Rexall Low Dose ASA. Its coated tablets are best for ongoing use, as uncoated formulations can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort.