Don’t let heart disease and stroke sneak up on you

Prevention is the best medicine

When I do get into the rhythm of being active – doing cardio classes, getting up a little earlier to make the walk or fit in some exercise before work – my mood is better, my stamina improves and I know I’m prolonging my life by improving my overall health.

by David Sculthorpe

What if I told you that up to 80 percent of premature heart disease and stroke are preventable? For every 10 people diagnosed with these conditions before age 75, we could have prevented eight of them.

It’s true, and a shocking statistic, when you think about it because heart disease and stroke continue to be leading causes of death in this country.

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “If we can save eight out of 10 people, why aren’t we doing more? Why does heart disease and stroke still take a life every seven minutes?”

What’s holding us back? Usually, it comes down to two factors: 1) People think it’s never going to happen to them. 2) Changing habits is hard.

Eating better and moving more is challenging for most people, including myself. I try to work out at least three times a week, but all too often I’m too busy or too tired to get to it. I try to walk to and from work every day, but there are many days when I’m in too much of a rush to get to work or eager to get home to my wife and kids so I take the car.

When I do get into the rhythm of being active – doing cardio classes, getting up a little earlier to make the walk or fit in some exercise before work – my mood is better, my stamina improves and I know I’m prolonging my life by improving my overall health. And I know being too busy is the worst excuse for not being active.

The saying “Use it or lose it” definitely applies. I want to be walking, skiing, playing tennis and being active long after I’ve retired. And I know the best way to ensure that happens is to be doing more of those things right now.

There’s a lot each of us can do to reduce our own risk. But we can’t do it alone. Preventing that 80 percent of premature heart disease and stroke will take the full engagement of governments, industry, schools, the healthcare system, every aspect of society. It will also take our best minds, such as researchers like Dr. Grant Pierce.

Dr. Pierce, a professor of medicine at the University of Manitoba and the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at St. Boniface Hospital, found that consuming ground flaxseed can dramatically reduce blood pressure, having the same positive effect as medication. Imagine something as simple as adding three tablespoons a day to home-cooked meals has the potential to reduce the number of heart attacks and stroke by as much as 50 percent.

Research like this, which was made possible by Heart and Stroke Foundation donors, gets me excited because I passionately believe prevention is our biggest defence against heart disease and stroke. I can’t stress this enough: we’re up against two of the leading killers of Canadians. We need to throw everything we’ve got at them.

That’s why we launched the Heart and Stroke Foundation blog. Here, you’ll find the latest innovations in heart and stroke research plus heart-healthy recipes, inspiring stories of change and survival, and simple, tangible ideas that will help you and your family feel better and live longer and stronger. Our aim is to stop heart disease and stroke in its tracks.

I hope you will join us on this journey and visit our blog regularly. We look forward to hearing from you and sharing your ideas.

Are you at risk? Find out by taking the free online Heart&Stroke Risk Assessment at https://ehealth.heartandstroke.ca/

David Sculthorpe is the CEO at the Heart and Stroke Foundation. www.heartandstroke.ca

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