February is Heart Month!
Many people believe that heart disease is an unavoidable part of aging; however, there are many ways to keep your ticker in tip-top shape.
It’s true, heart disease is a major threat to the health of seniors — in fact, it’s one of the top three leading causes of death in Canada. Heart disease risks do increase with age, but it doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of getting older. Making some simple changes including forming some healthy lifestyle habits and maintaining a heart-healthy diet can help protect you.
What is heart disease?
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada explains “Your heart is a muscle that gets energy from blood carrying oxygen and nutrients. Having a constant supply of blood keeps your heart working properly. Most people think of heart disease as one condition. But in fact, heart disease is a group of conditions affecting the structure and functions of the heart and has many root causes.”
Coronary artery disease (or CAD) is the most common form of heart disease. “It develops when a combination of fatty materials, calcium and scar tissue (called plaque) builds up in the arteries that supply blood to your heart (coronary arteries). The plaque buildup narrows the arteries and prevents the heart from getting enough blood.”
Warning Signs of CAD:
Early warning signs of heart disease may include:
They may also include the symptoms that are associated with angina:
- A squeezing, suffocating or burning feeling in your chest that tends to start in the centre of your chest but may move to your arm, neck, back, throat or jaw.
Women are more likely to experience non-traditional symptoms such as:
- Vague chest discomfort
- Sleep difficulties
If you experiencing any of these symptoms talk to your doctor right away. Left untreated, these can lead to other serious problems such as heart attack, stroke or even death.
Reduce the Risk:
Many health conditions can contribute to heart disease and increase your risk of having a heart attack. Heart disease treatment and heart attack prevention requires that you treat all other contributing health problems and keep them under control.
To treat heart disease:
- Lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels
- Keep diabetes under control
- Take all medications as prescribed
- Talk to your doctor. There are medications that can help treat the various aspects of heart disease. Your doctor may suggest taking a daily aspirin to help reduce the risk of a heart attack.
7 Steps to a Healthy Heart:
You can keep your heart healthy no matter how old you are! Here’s how to get started:
1. Get enough exercise. Increase daily activity to 30 minutes almost every day of the week. This can include walking, swimming, yoga…
2. Quit smoking. If you smoke, it's time to quit. At any age quitting improves your health. There are many options to assist you in quitting and your doctor can help you succeed.
3. Eat a healthy diet. Load up on those fruits and vegetables while limiting saturated fats, salt, and foods containing cholesterol, like fatty meats.
4. Watch your numbers. Follow up with your doctor regularly and keep up with your check-ups. Monitoring your health conditions that affect the heart, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, making sure they’re under control is your first line of defence.
5. Reduce your alcohol intake. Excess alcohol consumption can worsen health conditions that contribute to heart disease, like blood pressure, arrhythmias, and high cholesterol levels. Drink responsibly.
6. Minimize stress in your life. Not the simplest of tasks but stress can compound many heart disease risks that seniors already face, steering you toward an unhealthy lifestyle. Find healthy outlets to relieve stress and lower your heart disease risk. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and helps your heart too!
7. Watch your weight. Too many pounds can increase your risk of heart disease. Maintaining a healthy body weight for your size will help keep your heart happy. Talk to your doctor about setting and achieving a healthy goal.
Your doctor is a key player on your healthy heart team. Working with them can help keep health problems under control and your heart happy and healthy. Remember it's never too late to start living a healthy lifestyle and getting your heart disease risks in check.