Women’s Heart Health

Did you know that Cardiovascular Disease accounts for more than 29% of all deaths in Canada?  Did you also know that it accounts for 28% of all male deaths, but 29.1% of all female deaths in Canada? (Statistics Canada, 2011).

What is Cardiovascular Disease? It is also known as heart disease – affecting the heart, blood vessels or both (Wikipedia).  Heart Attack & Stroke are the leading cause of women’s deaths in Canada.  Yet, we don’t talk about it much.  We talk a lot about Cancer, especially breast and ovarian, and we worry that our fathers, brothers, husbands, or partners will fall ill with heart disease or die prematurely from heart attacks.  Heart attacks and heart disease are still seen as a predominately male disease, when in fact, according to statistics, women are dying from more heart related diseases than men.

In fact, the Canadian Heart & Stroke foundation has launched a new campaign called the “red dress campaign” – an event to raise awareness of women and heart disease.  If the statistics are glaring in our face, why are we still not getting the message?

I’ve become a huge fan of the phrase “change before you must” this year.  It really speaks to me; in my line of work as a fitness/nutrition trainer and consultant, it epitomizes what I preach to my clients – changing before we must.  Change while we are healthy and can reverse the damage done.  All too often, we wait to make changes after an incident occurs.  If we wait until then, it could be too late.  According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation, it is estimated that up to 500,000 Canadians are living with Heart Failure and another 350,000 are living with stroke related health issues.  It is estimated that up to 50% of heart related deaths are from heart failure and stroke.  WHY WAIT?  Why let the damage to your heart get to the point that your best hope for recovery is “management”.  Why not change before you must?  By creating heart healthy, positive changes in your life TODAY you can impact your future to significantly reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke and ensuring a high quality of life.

5 Tips to Reduce Your Risk TODAY:

  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight – being overweight and obesity are leading causes of heart related illnesses in Canada.  By keeping your weight in the healthy range you can limit your risk of developing heart disease!
  2. MOVE – That’s right – Exercise!  It will help you achieve tip #1 – reduce your weight.  It will also help your cardiovascular health by pumping more oxygen through your veins and forcing your heart and lungs to clear out toxins.  A healthy pump to keep your ticker in tip top shape is good for you!  Find activities you enjoy doing – like walking, jogging, biking, hiking, etc.  Start slow and build up.
  3. EAT BETTER – you’ve heard it all before, but it’s true!  Eat a more balanced diet consisting of low glycemic index foods, reduce your consumption of red meats and high fat foods, eat more colorful fruits and veggies and stay away from pop, fast food and junk food!
  4. STOP SMOKING –smoking is one of the most preventable causes of deaths.  It is known to cause heart and lung disease as well as put a strain on your immune system, preventing you from building the body’s proper defenses.  There are many techniques available to help you quit smoking, like the smokers help line and nicotine replacement products.  Do your heart a favor, quit today!
  5. MONITOR YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE/LOWER YOUR CHOLESTEROL.  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  How true.  Prevention is your best medicine.  Keep your blood pressure in the normal range by reducing stress, quitting smoking, keeping your weight under control, exercising, and reducing your alcohol consumption.  Lower your cholesterol by reducing your sodium intake, increasing your fiber rich foods, and increasing your omega 3 & 6 and other healthy fats.

Many women these days are fulfilling dual roles as mother/house-maker and breadwinner…while these are important roles in our lives, we must understand that we cannot help anyone if we are not well.  We often do not take time for our own care and stopping for a brief moment each day to take time to care for our most important organ will allow us to reap the benefits later in life.  It’s never too late to start taking care of your heart!

Tonya Whittle 2Tonya Whittle, BA, CPT, YES, is the owner of TW Fitness in Holyrood.  For more information about TW Fitness, visit them online at twfitness.ca or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin.

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