In honour of September 29 being World Heart Day, I would like to point out that this is an era in which so many conditions and health problems are vying for your attention – not to mention your dollars, as well –and in that constant barrage of news and press releases about different illnesses, heart disease often seems to get shifted aside or ignored, at least in terms of media attention.
But despite that seeming neglect, heart disease (and strokes) remains the main killer of Canadians, and it deserves more of your attention than it may be getting, mostly because to a very large extent, heart disease is so preventable.
After years of thinking “fat” is unhealthy it is refreshing to learn some fats are not only healthful but essential! So it is with omega-3 fats. Scientists use the term omega-3 to describe the chemical make-up of the fat. As eaters, we are more interested in why omega-3s are good for us and what they look like on our dinner plate.
Omega-3s are healthy fats because they help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, and may reduce the risk of cancer and arthritis. These anti-inflammatory fats are also essential for development of the brain and nervous system and may help improve memory and manage depression.
Spring is a wonderful time to get active under the sun. The benefits of physical activity are innumerable, but a major benefit is heart protection. For those already diagnosed with a heart condition, taking steps to prevent progression of the illness is critically important. But I would argue for the otherwise healthy it is just as, if not more, important to maintain habits for a healthy heart to prevent illness completely.
Everyone knows that I’m sure the death rate from heart attacks and strokes rises dramatically in the winter time in Canada.
And in a climate like ours, the obvious reason is that cold can have untoward effects on our health and also that when it snows, so many of us out-of-shape people do our own driveway and walkway shovelling. That hard, sudden effort in the cold heavily taxes our cardiovascular system (which, by the way, is why I always ask my wife to shovel any snow that hits our house).
But there has to be way more to it than simple cold air mal-adjustments because a recent study that compared winter heart attack rates in Pennsylvania, California, and Arizona found a similar rise in all areas, that is, heart attack rates went up pretty similarly in winter in both warm and cold weather areas of the continent.
Well, it could have to do with hormonal changes from the shorter daylight hours, it could be depressive symptoms from the same change in daylight, it could just be that we eat more poorly and exercise less in the winter, even if we live in a warmer climate.
Bottom line is simple, though: you have to be particularly vigilant during the winter to minimize your other risks for heart attacks and strokes, in other words, do your exercise. Today.