Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. February is Heart month. Both of these events are important to me. Nine Valentine’s Days ago, my infant daughter was recovering in hospital from the first of two open heart surgeries.
Today, I want to talk about improving your heart health as a motivator to eat well and exercise regularly.
In Canada, heart disease and stroke are the number one cause of death in women. In 2008, nearly 30% of women’s deaths were attributable to one or the other!
Although we often think of ‘heart disease’ as referring to arteriosclerosis (thickening of the blood vessels in the heart), it’s a much more general term, encompassing a range of conditions including acute coronary syndrome, angina, arrhythmia, congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, endocarditis and a variety of valve disorders.
Estimates suggest that over 90% of adult Canadians have at least one of the risk factors for developing some form of heart disease during their lifetime. How many describe you?
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- excessive alcohol consumption
The good news is, all of the above risk factors are life-style in nature. That means we can all lower our risk of heart disease by making some relatively simple changes in our day to day living.
- start moving; incorporate moderate intensity exercise into your day, most days of the week
- quit smoking (ask your doctor for assistance)
- reduce alcohol intake
- take up a relaxing hobby (like knitting!)
- sleep more
- eat more foods that are high in fiber (fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains) and low in salt and saturated fat (clean eating is the perfect diet to help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure and eliminate type II diabetes)
Still not convinced that improving your heart health is a smart thing to do?
Consider the cost to your pocketbook of medications used to control diabetes and reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure (three of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke).
Here’s the receipt for my daughter’s most recent prescription refill.
That’s a three month supply of one of the two medications she takes to control her high blood pressure (a consequence of the time that elapsed between her first and second heart surgeries). The other costs even more. Not everyone is as fortunate as we are to have a good drug plan.
Heart disease is one of the few forms of death that you can cheat.
What will you do today to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke?