February is Heart Month in Canada. The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada warns that as you age, your risk of heart disease increases. Men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55 or postmenopausal women are at greater risk of heart disease.
The Foundation points out that although you cannot control your age as a risk factor, there are risk factors you can do something about:
- High blood pressure. Eating healthy, exercising and stopping smoking can reduce your risk for high blood pressure.
- High blood cholesterol. Smoking increases bad blood cholesterol. To help reduce your cholesterol: stop smoking, stay fit and reduce your fat intake to 20 – 35% of your daily calories.
- Being overweight. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. If you’re a man and your waist measures more than 102 centimetres (40 inches) or a woman whose waist measures more than 88 centimetres (35 inches), you are at increased risk.
- Excessive alcohol consumption. If you drink alcohol, limit your intake to two drinks a day (weekly maximum of 10) for women and three drinks a day (weekly maximum of 15) for men.
- Physical inactivity. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends adults should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.
- Smoking. The sooner you become smoke-free, the sooner your body can start to recover and it doesn’t take long to see the effects. Within one year of quitting, your added risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half than that of a smoker. Within 15 years, your risk of coronary heart disease will be similar to that of a non-smoker.
- Stress. The relationship between stress and heart disease and stroke isn’t completely clear. However, some people with high levels of stress or prolonged stress may have higher blood cholesterol, increased blood pressure or be more prone to developing atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).
The Foundation released a press report on February 3, 2015 entitled “Big challenges lie ahead for Canadians’ health despite decades of research advances.” The bad news is that heart disease and stroke continue to be the second leading cause of death in Canada. The good news is that thanks to research, today 95% of Canadians that have a heart attack will now survive.