The cardiovascular system consists of the heart (of course) and a complex network of blood vessels (veins, capillaries and arteries) that transport approximately 5 litres of blood throughout the body per minute. The cardiovascular system is responsible for transporting oxygen, nutrients, and hormones throughout the body, supporting the immune system, and essentially, for keeping you alive. It is paramount that we keep our heart healthy in order to stay fit and well throughout life.
Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada (following cancer) and currently there are approximately 2.4 million Canadians 20 years and older live with heart disease. Heart disease encompasses a range of disorders affecting the heart, including Coronary Artery Disease, arrhythmias (heart rhythm problems), and congenital heart defects. Heart disease can be referred to as cardiovascular disease, and also includes conditions involving narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. The good news is, many forms of heart disease can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices.
According to Statistics Canada, nine in 10 Canadians over the age of 20 have at least one risk factor for heart disease and four in 10 have three or more risk factors. Although some risk factors are out of one’s control (family history of heart disease and age – men over 45 and women over 55 are at greater risk of developing heart disease), the following eight leading risk factors for heart disease can be controlled:
- Smoking increases blood pressure and leads to blocked arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease (read between the lines: if you’re a smoker, quit!) If you’re struggling with this addiction, here are some recently published tips to transition into smoke-free living.
- Lack of exercise: There have been several scientific studies that link regular physical activity to heart health and that active individuals are far less likely to develop Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) than more sedentary people. Especially with the prevalence of computer-based work in our employment options these days, it is necessary to make sure you’re getting enough movement into your everyday routine. Try these heart healthy exercises to get your heart rate up, blood pumping, and keep your heart in top top shape.
- Unhealthy diet: Too many trans fats, saturated fats, and sodium and not enough fruits and vegetables increases the risk of heart disease. Here are the top nine supplements for heart health, including Coenzyme Q10, Pantethyne, and Omega-3s.
- Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing a wide range of serious diseases and conditions, including heart disease. Tweaking diet and exercise levels can help you lose weight and create a more optimal environment for your cardiovascular system to function properly.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, strokes, or a thick heart muscle (hypertrophy), which can eventually lead to heart failure.
- High cholesterol: High levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to blocked arteries, which raises the risk of heart disease. Try adding these 11 foods to your diet to lower cholesterol.
- Diabetes: If you have diabetes, ensure you’re controlling your blood sugar levels and eating a balanced diet to minimize risk of heart disease.
- Stress: High levels of stress can raise cholesterol levels, increased blood pressure, or create disturbances in heart rhythm. Try these 16 simple stress-relievers next time you’re feeling overwhelmed.
We hope this has informed you about the importance of keeping your cardiovascular health in check, and to choose healthy options for yourself and your loved ones.