As many as 2.4 million Canadians over the age of 20 live with heart disease. Of those 2.4 million cases, heart disease accounts for approximately 30% of all deaths in Canada and claims more than 33,000 lives each year. Heart disease is more prevalent in woman than men. In fact, more than 50% of women are likely to die in the first year after suffering a heart attack, while that number remains lower for men who’ve suffered a heart attack. However, according to a recent survey done by CVS Health, as many as 60% of women aren’t aware of these statistics and don’t recognize the risk factors that they’re up against.
Because the risk of heart disease is higher in women, family physician Dr. Ali Ghahary says it’s important to arm yourself with the information you need – including being aware of certain components of your cardiovascular health, such as your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, as well as your BMI (body mass index.) At least 80% of Canadian women have at least one or more risk factors that could lead them to developing heart disease. These risk factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity, as well as smoking, increased stress and/or anxiety, as well as a family history of poor cardiovascular health. Once you’re aware of these components and know your risk factors, you can take that information to your physician and begin the steps necessary to reduce that risk and better your health.
In effort to provide women with better insight into heart disease, the American Heart Association began their ‘Go Red for Women’ campaign, which shares real stories from real women who’ve suffered from heart disease and its complications. Sometimes by putting real faces to real stories, that makes it more personal rather than seeming like just another statistic, and will hopefully urge other women to take care of their heart health.
As mentioned, first and foremost you need to know your risks. While you can’t control things like age, gender or whether or not heart disease is hereditary, you can control and manage things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and improve your lifestyle – such as quitting smoking, eating healthy and getting regular physical activity. By taking control of these aspects of your life, you can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease. If you’re unsure how to tackle making these changes, your family physician is ready and willing to help you. The first step in making those changes happen is simply by asking for help when you need it. Prevention is key.
In order to make the process a bit less challenging and to point you in the right direction, the Heart and Stroke Foundation has compiled together a list of ways to help you live a healthier lifestyle – including heart-healthy recipes. You can find all the information you need by visiting heartandstroke.ca.