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  • Writer's pictureTania Cucciniello

February is Heart Month. Learn About the Risks of Heart Disease.

Every February is Heart Awareness Month. With the spotlight on Valentine’s Day and the theme of love, it is the perfect time for people to learn about the heart.

At the heart of the matter

Your heart is part of the cardiovascular system in the body, which consists of three main components: blood, blood vessels, and of course, the heart. The heart, which is a powerful pump, pumps about 10 liters(L) of blood per day. Via blood circulation, oxygen and nutrients get transported to the rest of the organs and body parts before returning to the heart.

Our cells depend on adequate oxygen and nutrient supply to properly excrete metabolic waste, which then renews the blood flowing through body. To ensure a healthy cycle and proper blood distribution throughout the body, one must adopt or practice healthy habits.

Here are some important things you can do for a healthy heart:

1.Stay active: physical exercise allows redistribution of the blood through movement, increasing blood flow.

2. Eat clean: the fresher you eat, the more oxygen-rich nutrients can be absorbed by the body through the gut. The food we eat heavily determines the consistency and health of blood cells. Looking further in this:

  • Reduce sugar: sugar causes inflammation and increases glucose in blood, which puts one at risk for other conditions such as hyperglycemia and diabetes. These conditions cause symptoms of excessive thirst, extreme fatigue, frequent urination, poor mood, and much more. Diabetes also increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Unfortunately, 50% of people with diabetes die as of a result cardiovascular disease.

  • Drink less alcohol: alcohol gets absorbed directly into the blood stream, unlike the normal digestive process. Therefore, drinking in excess is much riskier on the heart because the body works extra hard to remove alcohol from the system, prioritizing its elimination ahead of other nutrients in the body.

  • Eat less red meat/cured meats: these foods are high in saturated fat, which is not the “good type” of fat. Many studies show a higher risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease in those who eat red/cured meats regularly. Therefore, it is recommended to limit your intake of red meat to once a week.

  • Lose weight: it goes without saying that being overweight or obese makes the body work harder. The more weight one carries, the harder it is to move, which decreases physical activity, and this makes it harder for the heart to pump blood. With the heart working over-time, this increases chances of having hypertension and developing a stroke. Those in a healthy weight range do have a lower risk of developing said dis-eases.

3. Manage your blood pressure: managing your stress regulates your heart rate and other stress-related hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which accelerate a rapid heart rate and increases the risk of having high blood pressure.

4. Quit smoking: If there was one primary goal, I would desire for anyone who smokes cigarettes, would be to finally quit smoking! Cigarettes equal zero oxygen, not to mention all the poisonous ingredients which increases risk of getting diagnosed with cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Know that every cigarette brings you closer to the possibility of heart failure.

What to look for.

In the case of an emergency, there are different medical signs to look out for, which can also be different between men and women. It’s important to act fast when seeing or experiencing these emergency signs:

Signs of a stroke= Remember, it’s important to act F-A-S-T:

Signs of a heart attack= Chest pain like squeezing, burning or pressure; along with joint pain in the jaw, shoulders, arms or back shortness of breath, sweating, light-headedness, and nausea. Call 9-1-1 right away.

Signs of cardiac arrest= A collapse, unresponsiveness, and gasping sounds or not breathing at all. In this case, your immediate action can help save a life! Start to perform CPR on the person as quickly as possible. Have someone else call 9-1-1 if possible, if not make the call as quickly as possible, then perform the CPR until the ambulance arrives and the paramedics can take over. Even if the CPR is not perfect, it still doubles the person’s chance of survival.

These moments sound scary, and they can be… but what’s even scarier is just how often people are experiencing this. In fact, 600,000 people are affected by heart disease in Canada alone. Heart failure is the #1 reason for ambulance calls, and death from heart failures alone amounts to more than the deaths from breast, colon, and prostate cancer combined.

Did you know?

Did you know that up to 90% of cardiovascular disease and stroke is preventable in life through healthy habits? Read that again please. NINETY percent is preventable!

Therefore, it is so crucial to make healthy choices and manage stress levels, especially if you’ve been told you have an issue like hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, or other chronic diseases. These issues can be tamed, reduced, and prevented through healthy living choices. When there are no underlying issues, healthy changes feel like hard work or even scary sometimes; but not as scary as a heart attack, right?

If you know you have high cholesterol, yet you continue to eat poorly like mostly fast food, red meats, soda, juice drinks, then you are basically adding fuel to the fire. Instead, opt for a diet filled with fruits and vegetables, lean protein, herbs, spices, lots of water and making it a point to cook from home as well.

These healthy habits don’t sound so scary now! They sound like easy, simple, vibrant, and important ways to live, which they are.

Follow the guidelines of this article to help you eat healthy, stay active and reduce stress. Remember how to recognize the signs in case of an emergency.

For more information on cardiovascular disease, healthy living, or finding a community to talk more about this, please visit The Heart and Stroke Foundation.

On a personal note, this matter is close to my heart as both of my parents were diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases. There are many families living with members who have heart disease, and I simply want to provide more accessible information and tips on how to better the situation. The Heart and Stroke Foundation has helped my family to cope, so I hope it will for anyone else who needs it too. Take good care!

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