In 2016 at age 64, I had open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve. I found out at age 59 that I had a congenital heart defect. My aortic valve had only two chambers or cusps instead of three. This meant the valve had to work harder causing it to wear out over time. Facing surgery was very scary but I was physically fit, in good health, a non smoker, ate well and am blessed with great cholesterol and blood pressure levels. This made a huge difference in my recovery and in managing my heart health.
I’m sure that many of you have a family member, friend, spouse or even yourself who has experienced a heart episode or is at risk of developing heart disease.
Heart Disease is the general term that means the heart is not working properly. Some forms of heart disease are congenital (present at birth) while others develop as we age.
Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada, it affects 1.3 million Canadians, is the leading cause of premature death in women world wide, 53% of women who have heart attack symptoms go unrecognized, 2/3 of all clinical research focuses on men, 9 in 10 Canadians have at least one rick factor for heart disease and stroke.
Risk factors fall into three categories. Some we can control, others we can’t.
- Lifestyle Risk Factors: Physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, unhealthy weight, smoking, stress and excessive alcohol and drug abuse.
- Health Conditions: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, atrial fibrillation.
- Not able to control: Sex, age, genetics, heritage.
Having said all that, the good news is that heart disease is preventable and manageable. This brings us to the “recipe”.
My recipe for a “HEALTHY, HAPPY HEART” – “LIVE A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE”
- Be informed. Knowing the risk factors is the first step. The internet is a great resource. Check out heartandstroke.ca. It’s an excellent site.
- Stay or get physically active. Find something you love and DO IT.
- Eat a healthy diet. Low in trans and saturated fat, lots of fruits and veggies, limit processed foods. The trick is to “modify not deny”. There are loads of cooking courses out there to help you.
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. If you are doing number 2 and 3, you should see good weight results.
- Be smoke free. If you are a smoker, find a good program to help you quit.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Enjoy your glass of wine but the rule is no more than 9 alcoholic beverages a week for women and 14 for men.
- Manage STRESS. Not easy but it can be done. Exercise is a great stress reliever, yoga and meditation are also excellent.
When you follow the recipe, you eliminate many of the risk factors and improve others. As a bonus you will have more energy, feel better about yourself and improve your general health. What a gift to give to yourself and those you love.
February is Heart month so lets all celebrate by following the words of the very wise Kim Mortson of Body Design,
“BE FIT EAT WELL LIVE LIFE!”
As the Heart and Stroke Foundation says, “LIFE, we don’t want you to miss it.”
By Nancy Barratt. Nancy is a certified Personal Trainer, Older Adult Specialist and Yoga Instructor at Body Design. Body Design offers Personal Training + Yoga Classes to assist individuals achieve their health and fitness goals. www.bodydesign.ca