February is here - and I'm not quite sure where January went. Anyway, besides snow, thanks to Hallmark, February is always associated with matters of the heart. Smartly, someone clued into this and also made the disease of February 'Heart Disease'.
I already know about Valentines Day (though I am a bit confused why you would by a card for 'Baby's First Valentine's Day' or cards from your dog or cat and, to your dog or cat) so I decided to do some reading on Heart Month. It seems that everyone I know, knows someone with a heart issue so it's not surprising that "nine in 10 Canadians over the age of 20 have at least one risk factor for heart disease. Four in 10 have three or more risk factors." and "More than 1.4 million Canadians have heart disease. It is also one of the leading causes of death in Canada, claiming more than 33,600 lives per year." (from: http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/diseases-conditions-maladies-affections/disease-maladie/heart-disease-eng.php). With the growing societal concerns about obesity in children these numbers will only get worse unless we find ways to curb the risks people take with their own health. The impact of this on individuals, families, employers and our health system will be significant if it isn't already.
So what can we do to make things better? How can we decrease our chances of becoming a statistic of this growing concern. Here's the thing - this is one disease that we might have a bit of control over - unlike others that strike regardless of what we try to do to stay healthy. And while doing all the right things may not prevent us from getting some form of the disease, it may assist in prolonging our healthy years and allow us to be a more viable candidate for treatment in the event that we can't escape a hereditary predisposition to it. If we ever hope to change the statistics we need to start by looking at risk factors that we can change. Smoking - this is a 'no brainer' - seriously, what good ever comes from smoking? Diabetes - some people are predisposed to this, while others develop it later in life for various reasons - one of those reasons is related to yet another risk factor - obesity. If we can ensure a healthy diet with some exercise, we not only can reduce our chances of heart disease, but also of other illnesses including diabetes which itself leads to a slippery slope of other potential issues. High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure might also be hereditary and if it is, early detection and intervention would be the key to reducing risk. However, things like a poor diet and lack of exercise can also contribute to it. So again, it may be an issue of lifestyle that helps reduce the risk for some. And then there is stress. Something we all have to a certain degree but some of us handle it better than others. I suppose the key here is knowing how to decrease stress levels and taking the time to de-stress. Much easier said than done. I suppose most important factors impacting change are an awareness and then a desire to stay healthy. Ultimately, eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, staying social, not smoking, going to your doctor for regular check ups and taking breaks from stress and work will all contribute to a healthier life not only by reducing heart disease risks but also through its positive impact on a host of other illnesses for which the risk factors are the same. We can only hope that the 'healthy lifestyle' message spreads and is adopted by our population soon - before our health care system cracks under the pressure of chronic preventable diseases.