Heart health the focus of February

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Alberta marks ‘Heart Month’

Staff with the local office of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Alberta are stepping up awareness on issues surrounding heart health throughout February.

Heart Month is a national campaign that mobilizes Canadians to raise awareness and funds that have an impact on the lives of not just heart and stroke patients, but all Canadians.

“Currently, we have 1,100 canvassers working across Central Alberta for the month of February,” said Michelle Sluchinski, area manager for the Foundation’s Red Deer office.

“They really become the faces of the Foundation to those donors, so it’s a great way to reach a lot of people.” The canvassers also provide folks with educational material about maintaining health health.

Sluchinski said the goal is to raise $110,000 within Central Alberta this month for the Foundation, and $1.6 million across the province. Funds support research, health promotion and health education.

There are several other events being held locally during Heart Month, including an open house at Victoria Park on Feb. 19. Sluchinski will be giving a heart health presentation at 3 p.m.

Folks can also visit the Parkland Mall through to Feb. 14
and purchase a red paper heart for $2 from customer service in Red Deer’s Parkland Mall to win prizes. The draw will be made Feb. 15.

Also through February, Red Deer and Lacombe Co-ops grocery, liquor, home centre and gas bar locations have donation boxes at the tills with proceeds going to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

According to recent Foundation poll, Canadians tend to overestimate their own healthy behaviours. Almost 90% of Canadians rate themselves as healthy but the reality is that nine out of 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

For example, only about a third said they are not physically active or don’t eat a minimum of five servings of vegetables and fruit per day. The reality is about half of Canadians don’t meet the physical activity and healthy eating recommendations.

Also, 18 % of Canadian adults say they are obese. The reality is that almost one quarter of Canadian adults are obese.

“Canadians know what to do to live healthier, longer lives. But there’s a huge disconnect between what we think we are doing to address our risk factors and reality,”

said Dr. Beth Abramson, cardiologist and spokesperson for the Foundation.

“The fact is that we’re not managing some of the most common and deadly cardiovascular risk factors as well as we think we are. We Canadians are living with a false sense of security that could be fatal.”

Heart disease is a group of conditions affecting the structure and functions of the heart and has many root causes. Coronary artery disease, for example, develops when a combination of fatty materials, calcium and scar tissue (called plaque) builds up in the arteries that supply blood to your heart (coronary arteries).

A person’s best defense is controlling the risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, stress, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and being overweight.

There are also a number of heart attack warning signs including sudden discomfort or pain that does not go away with rest, pain that may be in the chest, neck, jaw, shoulder, arms or back; and pain that may feel like burning, squeezing, heaviness, tightness or pressure. In women, the pain may be more vague.

Other possible signs of heart attack are shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, nausea, indigestion, vomiting, sweating, and cool, clammy skin.

For more information, check out www.heartandstroke.ab.ca.