Few medical statistics are more sobering than those revolving around heart disease. Did you know that over 8.5% of Canadians 20 years or older live with diagnosed heart disorders, 2.1% of whom have suffered from a heart attack? These grim disorders are so prevalent that all formally recognized Canadian First Aid courses contain sections that detail how to treat sudden cardiac arrest.
As cardiovascular issues become more prevalent, ProSafe is sharing some key steps to take to avoid potential future complications and know how to act if these arise in others. ProSafe’s Red Cross and WorkSafe Occupational First Aid courses teach life-saving skills like CPR and AED use, both essential tools during incidents of heart failure. Equally important are the preventative measures that can be taken far in advance that can significantly reduce one’s chance of suffering from cardiac arrest in the first place:
1. Know Yourself
There are a broad range of cardiac disorders that can be directly inherited through your genes. These include high blood cholesterol, arrhythmias, congenital heart disease, and more. One component of heart health that is sometimes overlooked involves checking your family history to confirm whether or not you are at higher risk.
Gender is another factor that can profoundly influence risk-levels, and also how the patients are treated in certain settings. Statistically, men are almost twice as likely to suffer from a heart attack at some point in their lives when compared to women. With that being said, there are some documented medical biases that have led to many women being mis-diagnosed. As an example, studies have revealed that women who claim they are stressed while being checked for heart disorders have frequently had their symptoms correlated with anxiety, rather than the true underlying issues.
It is vital that the public is aware that such biases can exist for certain individuals, and learn to act accordingly should their medical problems persist.
2. Consider Your Diet
What we eat has massive implications for the state of our overall health. Studies have proven that a varied diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat proteins are ideal for maintaining excellent cardiovascular health. Although you do not necessarily have to follow a strict eating regimen, it is recommended that you avoid fatty substances such as bacon and butter, along with exceptionally salty foods.
By planning ahead, minimizing the amount that you dine out or eat processed food, and closely following the Canadian Food Guide, you will be well on your way to making heart-healthy choices. Do not neglect to maintain a regular portion size, as overeating can have detrimental effects, regardless of how healthy the dish in question may be.
3. Manage Your Stress (And Your Rest)
The trials and tribulations of life in our busy world can affect our blood pressure and heart health in surprisingly potent ways. No matter how packed your schedule may be, you should always set aside time to de-stress and do the things that you enjoy. What this entails can differ from person to person; while some seek solace through yoga or running, others find comfort in relaxing with their family or watching a movie.
High levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, are directly tied to poor sleep, so be cognizant of your bedtime routine. Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of rest per night, and try to commit to going to sleep at a set time every night.
4. Keep Active
Being physically active is an essential part of maintaining great heart health. Activities such as running, weight lifting, or playing sports strengthen the heart muscle while generally maintaining your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Committing at least 30 minutes of your day, five days a week, towards exercise will significantly impact your overall cardiovascular health. Additionally, stretching exercises are recommended, as they will strengthen your musculoskeletal system, allowing you to continue to be active as you approach old age.
According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, 8 in 10 cases of premature heart disease are preventable through healthy lifestyle behaviours such as the ones listed above. It's never a bad time to take a moment to think about what you do to keep yourself healthy, and your heart strong!