Did you know that there are lifestyle changes you can make that will decrease your risk of a heart attack or stroke?
Getting regular physical activity is part of maintaining a healthy weight, which lowers your risk of heart disease or stroke.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada states that, “Maintaining five or more healthy behaviours (not smoking; maintaining a healthy weight, regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet; and keeping high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol levels in control) is associated with an 88 % reduction in the risk of death from heart disease or stroke.”
Keep reading for more information on how to stay healthy and decrease your risk of heart disease or stroke.
Quitting smoking is one of the best strategies for improving overall health. We recommend speaking to a health care professional for more information about smoking cessation aids that are available. Visit Health Canada’s Quit smoking webpage for information about quitting smoking. There are resources available if you are trying to quit smoking or if you are helping someone else to quit smoking. There are also resources tailored for youth and young adults. The Canadian Lung Association also has a helpful Manage your withdrawal symptoms webpage. Consider reading the Quitting smoking article.
Exercise Regularly & Maintain a Healthy Weight
Getting regular physical activity is part of maintaining a healthy weight, which lowers your risk of heart disease or stroke. Integrating physical activity into your day can be as easy as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the mailbox instead of driving, or parking in the back of the parking lot instead of close to the door. Of course, you could also join a gym, a recreational sports league, or an exercise class, such as spin class or yoga. It is important that you consult with your health care provider about the level of physical activity that is appropriate for you before you begin.
Physical activity can also assist with decreasing stress. Take the first step in managing your stress by giving progressive muscle relaxation exercises a try.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Maintaining a healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. If you don’t know where to start, review Canada’s Food Guides to learn how much you need to eat from the four food groups. Canada’s Food Guide is currently available in 12 different languages and is also available as an app. After providing demographic information, the My Food Guide app will produce a personalized food guide for each member of your family as well as meal planning tips, recipes, and videos.
The Government of Canada also has an interactive tool called The Eat Well Plate. The food groups of Canada’s Food Guide are clearly depicted as portion sizes and if you hover your mouse over each section, helpful tips appear about healthy options for each portion of the plate. For example, if you hover your mouse over the red portion of the plate, suggestions for meat and meat alternatives are provided with ideas on how to incorporate them into recipes.
Keep Blood Pressure Under Control
It’s important to keep your blood pressure under control to help reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke. Some pharmacies will monitor blood pressure free of charge however, you can also purchase automated blood pressure cuffs for use at home. When monitoring your own blood pressure, it is important that the directions for use are followed and that the cuff is properly calibrated. Visit The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s High blood pressure webpage for more information on blood pressure levels, measurement, and management.
Reduce Alcohol Consumption
The Heart and Stroke Foundation also states that, “Drinking too much of any type of alcohol can increase your blood pressure and contribute to the development of heart disease and stroke.” Visit the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s Alcohol and recreational drug use webpage for more information on alcohol consumption guidelines. Alcohol content varies between beer, wine, and spirits. This means that the same amount of these drinks results in varying (and excessive) amounts of alcohol. It is important to note that alcohol consumption guidelines are different for men and women.
Keep Cholesterol Under Control
High cholesterol can contribute to plaque formation within blood vessels increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Cholesterol levels should be monitored regularly by a health care professional. Cholesterol can be managed with lifestyle modifications although some individuals will also require prescription medication. Remember that all medications should be taken as prescribed. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada has a very comprehensive Blood cholesterol webpage.
Diabetes should also be monitored and managed by a health care professional. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to several complications including an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Monitoring blood sugar levels, taking medication as prescribed, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke in addition to various other conditions. Diabetes Canada has information on the various types of diabetes (type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and pre-diabetes), recipes, as well as a section tailored for children and teenagers living with diabetes. To learn more, read our article Get the most from your diabetes-focused checkup appointment.
See Your Health Care Provider Regularly
Maintaining regular appointments with your health care provider will allow for assessment of overall health as well as monitoring and management of existing medical conditions.
For more information on prevention of heart disease and stroke, visit The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s Risk & prevention webpage.
Please note that this article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. If you have questions or concerns about your health, please consult with a health care professional.