Heart Health

February 7, 2022 at 10:38 am


February is Heart health month, which is recognized for raising awareness of cardiovascular related diseases. Heart disease affects approximately 2.4 million Canadian adults and is the second leading cause of death according to Health Canada. High blood pressure affects about six million Canadians and it is estimated that the lifetime incidence of developing high blood pressure is 90%. High cholesterol also significantly impacts adults and is often diagnosed alongside high blood pressure.

Every time the heart beats it pumps out a portion of blood into the blood vessels in an effort to deliver oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. As the blood travels within the vessels, pressure is applied against these vessels. This force is what gives rise to blood pressure readings. Although blood pressure varies throughout the day and changes depending on body position, movement and stress, a consistently higher than normal reading, especially when the body is at rest, requires further evaluation from a doctor. Overtime consistently elevated blood pressure reading may cause damage to blood vessels leading to inflammation and high cholesterol, both of which increase the risk of a heart attack or a stroke.

 Most people with high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol have no symptoms at all, leading to late detection and increasing the risk of serious health problems. The risk factors for high blood pressure and cholesterol include the following:

• Diet high in processed foods, saturated fats and refined sugars
• Lack of physical activity and exercise
• Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
• Age. The older you are the higher the risk of developing cardiovascular related conditions.
• Being overweight, particularly having excess fat around the abdominal area and/or a large waist size. This is known as central obesity.
• Fatty liver
• Diabetes
• High stress (mental, emotional and physical stress)

Making changes to your lifestyle can help reduce and prevent elevated blood pressure and cholesterol.

Tips to support cardiovascular health:

  • Have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels monitored regularly by your health care provider
  • Eat a diet higher in vegetables and fruits. Reduce refined, processed and pre-packaged foods.
  • Reduce consumption of food with added salt (smoked, cured and canned food items). Also, reduce the amount of salt when preparing freshly cooked meals.
  • Move your body every day. Exercising regularly, focus on cardio-based movement such as walking, jogging and dancing.
  • Quit smoking and reduce alcohol intake. Limit alcohol intake to 7-10 servings a week.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Focus on reducing excess weight around the abdominal area.
  • Manage stress. Avoiding stress is not practical, most of us are constantly bombarded with stressors. So instead, developing and utilizing tools to help make stress more manageable can improve cardiovascular health outcomes. Seeking professional help, talking to someone you confide in, spending time doing things that bring you joy and developing coping strategies can help the body perceive less stress and benefit cardiovascular health.  

Learning about heart health and applying some changes to your lifestyle can have a profound effect on reducing your risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol.

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