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The importance of heart health

February marks Heart Month

Even though the Valentine’s Day celebrations are over for another year – the chocolate and endless stream of treats are done – there is another reason that makes February stand out – it’s Heart Month.

The month is dedicated to bolstering awareness about heart health and it’s also about raising funds for ongoing research into better treatments and preventative education regarding heart health.

According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation, it was more than 60 years ago that a group of Canadians, “Including physicians and surgeons, established the National Heart Foundation of Canada with big hopes for the future.”

The goal was to give heart health a higher place on the public agenda and, “To educate Canadians about their hearts.”

In 1961, the Foundation was renamed the Canadian Heart Foundation. Today, the organization boasts some 130,000 volunteers and nearly two million donors.

“Since 1956, the Foundation has raised and invested more than $1.3 billion in leading-edge heart disease and stroke research. These impressive results have been made possible by the ongoing and valuable efforts of volunteers and donors across this country.”

As to the toll heart disease takes, the numbers are startling. According to the web site, heart disease and stroke take one life every seven minutes and 90% of Canadians have at least one risk factor. Heart disease also affects approximately 2.4 million Canadian adults, and is the second leading cause of death in Canada.

The Heart Foundation points out that many risk factors are described as silent killers, as there are no obvious symptoms. For example, a person may not even know they have either high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

There are also what are called non-modifiable risk factors, or factors that you can’t control, such as age, ethnic background, or having a family history of heart disease.

There are also modifiable risk factors, which include smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, being physically inactive, being overweight, smoking, depression, social isolation and a lack of quality support.

Of course, there are all kinds of healthy benefits from heeding these factors. An active lifestyle can help cut the risk of not only heart disease but also improve mental health.

Eat healthy also helps to control weight – tips run the gamut from including lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains as well as choosing healthier fats and oils and limiting sugary drinks like pop or overly salty foods.

Health officials also recommend drinking mainly water.

We live in an age that is stressful and hurried – and that in itself can lead to all kinds of unhealthy lifestyle habits. Too much fast, processed food. Too little activity. Too much isolation as we just sometimes don’t feel like engaging with others after a crazy day at work.

But as the experts point out, habits like these can affect us in a myriad of different ways over time – including in the way of maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system.