Since 2000, heart disease has remained a leading cause of death in Canada. To raise awareness about the many ways in which we can prevent heart disease in our lives, the World Heart Federation organizes World Heart Day every September. This year, the World Heart Foundation wants you to “share how you power your heart and inspire millions of people around the world to be heart healthy”. We encourage you to participate in any of the walks, runs, concerts, and other events which have been organized as part of this incredible event.
Here are some tips that will keep your heart as healthy as it can be:
Keep a food diary. Writing down everything you eat can influence you to make better dietary choices, since you will have a physical record of your meals. In the long term, you will have a better idea of what you eat and why you eat it. Based on these results, you will be able to make it easier for yourself to make healthy choices. For example, if you notice that you eat junk food and snacks when you return home from work, place fresh fruit on the counter to distract you from your pantry.
To start you off, here are some things you should and should not eat to develop a healthy circulatory system:
- Fruits and vegetables. These foods are known for being rich in vitamins and minerals, but ultimately, dietary fibre is the reason why fruits and veggies are on this list. Eating fibre reduces bad cholesterol levels in your bloodstream by binding to the molecules and preventing your body from absorbing them.
- Fish. Fish are a healthy source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 has been proven to reduce inflammation in the body, which in turn, reduces blood pressure and your chance of heart problems.
- Small daily servings of dark chocolate. Studies show that dark chocolate above 70% cocoa may contain high enough levels of flavonols to boost your metabolism and lower your blood pressure.
- Foods containing fats – especially saturated fats – and sugar. These have high levels of cholesterol, which clog up your veins over time. Avoiding them will help your circulatory system function at its best.
- Foods with high salt content. Salt breaks down into sodium and chlorine ions when dissolved in water. As we mentioned in our July newsletter, sodium is an electrolyte which helps your body retain water. Though this is good when you are nearing dehydration, an excess of sodium can bring too much water into your blood, raising your blood pressure. This puts unnecessary strain on your heart.
- Too much alcohol. Over time, drinking alcohol can weaken your muscles – particularly your heart. It also increases your blood pressure, putting you at risk of a heart attack.
Stop smoking. The damages of smoking don’t end with lung cancer. Tobacco wreaks havoc on blood cells and vessels. This damage may make it easier for plaque to build up in your circulatory system, and increase your chances of heart problems.
Exercise. Cardio exercises – exercises that raise your heart rate – are the most beneficial for your heart. By raising your heart rate, a workout forces your heart to get stronger. This reduces the chances of your heart developing problems in the future – but only if you do it often! The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends doing at least 150 minutes of exercise per week to reduce your risk of heart disease.
Monitor your mental health. When you’re down, you’re less likely to make healthy choices. Try avoiding things that trigger negative emotions, and slowly get back into a healthy routine should you fall off track due to a rough phase. Rushing the recovery process could deteriorate your mental health, so it is important to acknowledge that it takes time to adopt a healthy lifestyle, especially if you haven’t partaken in one for a long time. Different precautions must be taken if you suspect that you are suffering from a mental illness. Mental illnesses take their tolls on the body as well as the mind. Depression is reported in as many as 33 percent of heart attack patients in the United States, says the American Heart Association. For this reason, if you feel that you are suffering from a mental illness, it is crucial that you seek medical attention.
Heart disease symptoms are often difficult to detect, as they are easily dismissible. Here are some common heart disease emergencies along with their treatments and symptoms, courtesy of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, so that you are prepared in the event of a cardiovascular emergency.
Heart Attack: Call 9-1-1, take nitroglycerin (if you have a prescription) and Aspirin, and rest. Keep a list of your medications in your wallet so that it’s easily accessible when EMS needs it. Symptoms include:
- Overt chest discomfort: Pressure, squeezing, fullness, burning, and heaviness all fall under this umbrella.
- Upper body discomfort: Particularly in areas above the heart, like the neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, and back.
- Shortness of breath
Cardiac Arrest: Call 9-1-1, and attempt CPR. Use an AED if you have access to one. Symptoms include:
- Unresponsiveness to touch and sound
- Sudden collapse
- Abnormal or lack of breathing
SADS (Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome): Seek medical attention from a family doctor, cardiologist, or electrophysiologist. All immediate relatives should be tested, as the condition is hereditary. Symptoms include:
- Fainting or seizure during physical activity
- Fainting or seizure from distress or being startled
- Family history of death that is sudden or unexplained
A Community News blog post
West Toronto Support Services writes articles about events and news in the community that closely align with our agencies mission of living independently and promoting your health & wellness. Articles posted under community news don’t necessarily mean we directly endorse them – they are articles of interest that you can pursue further. We believe a healthy community is a diverse and connected community!
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