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” (2016).
Keep reading for more information on how to stay healthy and decrease your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Quitting smoking is one of the best strategies for improving overall health. Speak to a health care provider for more information about smoking cessation aids that are available. Health Canada has created the On the Road to Quitting: Guide to Becoming a Non-Smoker. There are different versions of the guide tailored to either adults or young adults. The Canadian Lung Association also has a page dedicated to strategies for managing specific smoking withdrawal symptoms.
Exercise regularly & maintain a healthy weight
Getting regular physical activity is part of maintaining a healthy weight and this lowers your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Getting regular physical activity is part of maintaining a healthy weight and this lowers your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Integrating physical activity into your day can be as easy as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the community 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 of some kind. It is important that you consult with a health care provider about the level of physical activity that is appropriate for you before you begin.
Decreasing Stress - Physical activity can also assist with decreasing stress. Elizz wants to help you take the first step in managing your stress. The following Elizz article (and accompanying short video) describes Progressive Muscle Relaxation For Caregivers.
Maintaining a healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Follow this link to Canada’s Food Guides where you’ll find excellent nutritional resources. It is important to note that Canada’s Food Guide is currently available in 12 different languages and it is also available as an app for both android and Apple products. After providing some 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 Eat Well Plate - The Government of Canada also has an interactive page 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. This helpful tool can be found on their web page Build a Healthy Meal. This page also offers several links to helpful tips for grocery shopping, snacking, and eating out. (Scroll down the page for these tools!)
Keep blood pressure under control
It is also important to keep your blood pressure under control to help reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Some pharmacies will monitor blood pressure free of charge however, you can also purchase automated blood pressure cuffs for use at home. 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 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” (2016). Visit the Heart and Stroke Foundations page on Alcohol And Recreational Drug Use 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 and the use of recreational drugs increases the risk of a stroke significantly.
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 and managed by a health care provider. Cholesterol levels may be managed through diet 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 page dedicated to cholesterol called Why Blood Cholesterol Matters.
Keep diabetes under control
Diabetes should also be monitored and managed by a health care professional. It is important that diabetes is monitored because 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. The Canadian Diabetes Association 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. See also 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 in order to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
For more information on prevention of heart disease and stroke visit The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s Heart Risk & Prevention page.
Do you know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack? Visit The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada's Heart Attack page for more information. See also our article Caregiver guide to stroke signs and symptoms.
Please note that this Elizz article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice.
At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.