How Happy (& Healthy) is your heart?
Are you a non-smoker? Do you eat a low-fat diet with lots of fruits and vegetables? Are you physically active at least 30 – 60 minutes every day? If so, your heart is most likely content because smoking, poor eating habits and inactivity are prominent risk factors for the development of heart disease and other chronic health conditions.
Eighty percent of Canadians have at least one modifiable risk factor for heart disease, and more than 11% have three or more risk factors. Fortunately, most risk factors associated with heart disease can be changed by making positive changes to your lifestyle.
The World Health Organization suggests those who smoke, eat a lot of fast food or are inactive, can make positive changes to these habits which will greatly reduce their risk for developing heart disease and other chronic conditions.
Risk factors that you can change
Researchers have identified several risk factors that, if changed or modified, could help to decrease your risk of heart disease, stroke and vascular disease and generally improve your heart health. Many of these risk factors are interrelated and positive changes to one modifiable risk factor will lead to favourable changes in others.
- A smoker has more than double the risk for developing heart disease than does a non-smoker. If you are a smoker, within 24 hours of quitting, your risk of heart attack starts to decrease. One year after quitting, your risk of heart disease is half of what a smoker’s is, and 15 years after quitting, your risk of heart disease is the same as someone who never smoked. There are several strategies that can help you quit, including physical activity & medications. If you’re thinking about quitting smoking, free help is available from the Smokers’ Helpline at 1-877-513-5333.
Uncontrolled Type 2 Diabetes
- Uncontrolled diabetes drastically increases one’s risk of developing heart disease. Frequent physical activity and a closely monitored diet helps to control blood glucose levels and consequently reduces heart disease risk. If you are living with diabetes, along with closely monitoring your blood sugar levels, getting “in motion” for 30-60 minutes a day will help maintain or improve your health. For more information on Type 2 diabetes, visit the Canadian Diabetes Association website at www.diabetes.ca.
Abdominal Girth and Obesity
- Almost half of Canadians are now overweight. Inactivity and high caloric consumption have led to increasing waistlines and increasing cardiac risk. You can reduce your risk by maintaining an abdominal girth of less than 102 cm (40 inches) if male and 88 cm (34 inches) if female. If you feel you are at risk, speak with a health professional, dietitian or exercise professional to find out the best course of action for you. Adding 30 - 60 minutes of physical activity each day and following a low-fat nutrition plan loaded with fruits and vegetables can help reduce abdominal girth and decrease your risk for developing heart disease.
High Blood Pressure & Stress
- High blood pressure is often related to stress. High blood pressure makes your heart work harder and over time, may cause your heart walls to become thicker and stiffer. Canadian guidelines suggest that optimal blood pressure is less than 130/85 mmHg and high blood pressure is greater than 140/90 mmHg. Get your blood pressure checked by a health professional regularly. Also, if you are frequently stressed, try some deep breathing exercises and help reduce your stress by getting “in motion” for 30-60 minutes on most days of the week. Even 10 minutes of activity can help combat stress and help improve your health.
- It’s a great idea to get “in motion” for good health. Research shows that daily moderate physical activity is key in helping to prevent heart disease. Choosing activities that raise your heart rate for 30–60 minutes per day will help control blood cholesterol, reduce stress, lower blood pressure in some people and also help manage weight as well as Type 2 diabetes. If you are new to exercise or have been inactive, please consult a health professional before starting a new physical activity program. Also, seeking assistance from an exercise professional may help you get started. For more information on how to get active and “in motion”, seach through some of the other sections on this site.
Risk factors that can’t be changed
Some risk factors—called non-modifiable risk factors—are things that can’t be changed. These include:
- As we age, our risk for heart disease increases. Men over the age of 45 and post-menopausal women over the age of 55 years are at greater risk for heart disease.
- Men have a higher incidence of heart disease than women. However, post-menopausal women also have an increased risk of heart disease.
If you have a non-modifiable risk factor, it is even more important to lower the other risk factors that you can change.February is National Heart Month
- If your parents, siblings or children have experienced heart disease before the age of 55 (65 female) then you are considered to have a “positive family history.” A “positive family history” indicates that an individual has a higher risk of developing heart disease.
. For information on heart health and prevention of heart disease, please visit www.heartandstroke.mb.ca