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Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke

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The Heart, Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke

 

 

According to Health Canada, cardiovascular disease (disease of the heart and its blood vessels) is the leading cause of death in Canada. The heart supplies us with oxygen and pumps blood to all the parts of our bodies. So it is very important to keep it healthy.

 

What is cardiovascular disease (heart disease)? 

Cardiovasculaire disease is the narrowing or blockage of the arteries and vessels that supply oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the heart. When the blood flow to the heart is blocked, the heart lacks oxygen, which results in a heart attack.

 

Symptoms of a heart attack

If you experience any of the symptoms described below, call Info-Santé, dial 911 or call the emergency room closest to your location and make yourself comfortable until help arrives:

  • Discomfort or pain in the chest, neck, jaw, arm or back
  • Pain in the stomach or abdomen that resembles indigestion
  • Breathlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Intense nausea and vomiting

 

Risk factors

Let’s begin by looking at the risk factors that can make you susceptible to cardiovascular disease:

  • Poor food choices (e.g., high fat, salty foods consumed on a regular basis)
  • Lack of regular physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Excess weight or obesity (BMI over 25)
  • Poor blood pressure control (BP over 140/90)
  • Poor management of blood cholesterol (e.g., high LDL cholesterol; low HDL cholesterol)
  • Diabetes
  • High levels of stress

 

Prevention for a healthy heart 

It is possible to reduce risk factors by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Healthy diet

Below are a few suggestions from the publication Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, published by Health Canada, to help you improve your diet.

  • Respect daily portions. You should eat 7 to 10 portions of fruits and vegetables and 6 to 8 portions of grains (oats, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, whole wheat) per day.
  • Cut back on fatty foods.
  • Cut back on meat. Don’t make meat the focus of every meal. Favour fibre-rich foods such as vegetables.
  • Choose chicken and fish. Remove skin from chicken, as this is where most of the fat is found. As for fish, it is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. However, avoid eating it breaded or fried.
  • Choose non-fat or low-fat products. For example, choose skim milk or 1% rather than whole or 2% milk. Cut down on full-fat cheese and cream cheese; choose lower-fat cheeses with a maximum of 15% milk fat.
  • Cut down on sugar. Avoid store-bought baked goods such as donuts and brownies. Avoid snacking on chips or chocolate bars.
  • Keep a food record. Write down everything you eat and compare it to these recommendations. Make any necessary changes.

Physical activity 

Being active is essential to maintaining or achieving a healthy weight and strengthening your heart.   Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Living can provide you with tips about how to increase your physical activity.

It can be found at www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/pau-uap/paguide/index.html

Smoking

Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your heart. There are many smoking cessation products to help you succeed. Your pharmacist can provide you with the  information and advise you regarding the best products for you.

 

Blood pressure (high and low)

When your blood pressure is high (hypertension), your heart has to work harder to pump blood, which puts a strain on it and increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.

  • Optimal blood pressure is when the systolic blood pressure is less than 120 mmHg and the diastolic is less than 80 mmHg.
  • Normal blood pressure is when the systolic blood pressure is less than 130 mmHg and the diastolic is less than 85 mmHg.

These values can vary according to the type of patient, so your health care professional will be able to tell you what your ideal blood pressure should be. Treatment is sometimes necessary to maintain optimal blood pressure. Your doctor can prescribe the appropriate treatment for you and your pharmacist can follow up with you on a regular basis.

Cholesterol 

Cholesterol and other blood fats such as triglycerides are necessary to help your body function properly. A healthy lifestyle can help achieve appropriate levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Medication can also be prescribed when necessary.

Stress

Stress is a normal part of daily life, but if left unmanaged, it can lead to physical problems. It can lead to  coronary heart disease, hypertension, chest pain or even irregular heartbeat. Recognizing when you are experiencing stress and managing it can greatly improve your quality of life.

Stroke (Balise H2)

Strokes are also caused by problems in blood flow to the brain and are considered a form of cardiovascular disease.

 

Symptoms of a stroke

If you experience any of the symptoms described below, call Info-Santé or dial 911:

  • Sudden discomfort or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding language
  • Sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no obvious reason

 

Heart and Stroke Foundation

 

The Heart and Stroke Foundation can provide you with more information about cardiovascular disease and stroke. 

 

 

Heart failure (HF)

 

When your heart doesn’t pump nutrient-rich blood to the various parts of the body effectively, you can suffer from heart failure. It occurs when the heart is not strong enough to circulate blood, especially during physical activity and stressful periods.

 

Warning signs of HF

You should contact your doctor or health care professional if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Increased breathlessness (especially if lasts a while)
  • Sudden weight gain of more than 2.5 kg in a week
  • Continuous sensation of swelling
  • All cold symptoms that last longer than a week
  • Fatigue, loss of energy and extreme exhaustion
  • Increased swelling of ankles, feet, legs, base of the spine or abdomen
  • More frequent need to urinate at night

 

Your doctor can recommend medication, surgery or a lifestyle change such as improving your diet and exercising. These recommendations can also include taking at least 1g of omega-3 each day.

 

Source: Heart and Stroke Foundation

 

 

 

Pharmacy services

 

After your doctor has made a diagnosis, your pharmacist can help you monitor and maintain your target blood pressure and cholesterol levels. He can also advise you about how to achieve a more healthy lifestyle.

 

To download the PDF brochure, click here. 

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