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.
Why? For one, heart disease is the leading cause of death in Canada . What may be a simple hypertension, or increased blood pressure, can spike into sudden heart fibrillation or heart attacks, both which can be fatal. These outcomes may even be considered merciful in light of the alternatives. One in ten who suffer a stroke end up severely disabled. And for a damaged heart that deteriorates into heart failure, it is a constant struggle with a worsening ability to breathe.
However, before your heart issues lay claim on you, you may be busy fending off other medical conditions that tend to tag along for the ride. Most common is kidney disease and diabetes, for which hypertension is a direct risk factor. The latter is present in up to 80% of individuals with artery disease . Elevated blood pressure damages sensitive arteries, leading to organ damage in these conditions. Other organs include the eyes, such as macular degeneration which causes blindness. Erectile dysfunction is also more prevalent in hypertensive patients, likely due to the same reasons. Cardiovascular illness is also a risk factor for Alzheimer disease, although the specifics are still under investigation. Ongoing research has also linked the heart with glaucoma and sleep apnea. The list will likely grow as the population ages, paving the way to more heart diagnoses, and more connections begin to surface for these patients.
So go out and work out your heart! Don’t wait until it is too late to turn the clock back!
Patient Care Pharmacist
North Town Centre, Edmonton