According to Health Canada, a Canadian dies from heart disease or stroke every 7 minutes. That’s 206 people per day! Heart disease affects approximately 2.4 million Canadian adults, and is the second leading cause of death in Canada.
The Heart Research Institute says ninety percent of Canadians over the age of 20 have at least one risk factor for heart disease. What can you do to avoid being part of these alarming statistics? Luckily, research by The Heart and Stroke Foundation says 8 out of 10 cases of premature heart disease and stroke cases are entirely preventable.
So let’s talk about prevention! You can reduce your risk by changing your lifestyle choices:
Quit (or do not start) smoking
It’s common knowledge, but we’ll say it anyways: quit (or don’t start) smoking. This includes marijuana too as studies in the New England Journal of Medicine and American Heart Journal show it should likely be avoided as well. While the evidence doesn’t seem as strong as with tobacco, we will be keeping our eyes open as the number of research studies increases due legalization of marijuana in Canada.
Get enough sleep
We talked about this in our last post, “The Connection Between Sleep and Heart Health”. Being underslept increases your risk of insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
While there’s some evidence a glass of red wine every now and again is good for your heart, it’s not a good idea to drink more under the guise of prevention. No alcohol at all is the healthiest for your overall health.
Get regular physical activity
Exercise that raises your heart rate for 20 minutes, for a minimum of three times a week is a good starting point. Full body movements are ideal, like walking, cycling, and swimming. You’re aiming to be out of breath, but still able to hold a conversation. Of course, the best kind of exercise is always the kind that you enjoy and actually do! So get moving!
Reducing stress is easy to say, but not always easy to do! Carve out the time to do the things you love. Spend time with your family, read, hike, or do some yoga. You can also learn how to set boundaries. Practice saying “no” which will help you cut back on stressful things you feel you “should” be doing. Meditation is another technique that helps, whether that’s in a group class, on your own, or using an app like Headway or Calm.
Eat nutritious foods
An easy place to begin is to start reading the ingredient labels on your food. Avoid processed foods as much as possible. Aim for foods that your great grandmother might have cooked and used. A good place to start on a heart healthy diet includes:
Avoid the use of hormonal birth control
The estrogen in hormonal birth control can cause an increase in blood clots, particularly in women over the age of 35. Women who have increased risk of cardiovascular disease like age, being overweight, diabetes, or smoking should consider not using hormonal birth control.
These basic lifestyle factors can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems. According to Health Canada if you have already experienced a heart attack or stroke, they can help reduce your risk of having another one.
There are risk factors that we can’t control -- age, gender, family history, and ethnicity -- which makes the things we can control even more important.
While working preventatively and managing your lifestyle to be heart healthy doesn’t guarantee you won’t get heart disease, but it does mean you’re more likely to avoid or delay it.
For some of us sleep is elusive, something we chase, desperately hoping for more. At the same time others eschew it to squeeze more into their day. Commonly, sleep is seen as expendable. We load up on coffee and power through because being productive is highly valued in our society. However, while we might feel we get more done, the effects of not getting enough sleep are wide-reaching.
The truth is if you’re chronically underslept you have a higher risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. This is true regardless of your age, how much you weigh, your exercise habits, and whether you smoke.
The 8 Sleep facts you need to know
There is hope though. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation “8 in 10 cases of premature heart disease and stroke cases are preventable through healthy lifestyle behaviours.” To maintain a heart healthy lifestyle, you need to be getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Nothing else can happen without a good night's sleep!
People who can genuinely thrive on 5-6 hours sleep without negative health consequences are as rare as supermodels. Are you a supermodel? We’re not either, so let’s be honest with ourselves:
If the answers to the these questions are ‘no’, then maybe you should start by getting more sleep.
Sleep is often overlooked in our society. We go to bed later and later because we see sleep as expendable, a time that can be better spent doing more “productive” things. But the science is clear, the length and quality of your sleep is fundamental to your cardiovascular health. We recommend making sleep a priority in your cardioprotective lifestyle plan.
You’ve probably heard about the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, and that it has been linked to a decrease in chronic diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease.
One of the main ingredients of the Mediterranean Diet is olive oil and it’s the polyphenol Oleuropein that makes olive oil so special. Oleuropein can be found in all parts of the olive tree, and it’s a powerhouse when it comes to heart health!
Olive Leaf Extract has nearly Double the Antioxidants of Green Tea
Lower blood pressure
Olive Leaf Extract helps with blood pressure regulation both preventatively and as a treatment. One study - “Olive (Olea europaea) leaf extract effective in patients with stage-1 hypertension: comparison with Captopril” - showed Olive Leaf Extract worked as well as a prescription ACE-inhibitor. Both were equally effective in vasodilating and reducing tension in the blood vessel walls, leading to lower blood pressure.
Protects against oxidative damage
The antioxidant property of Olive Leaf Extract reduces LDL cholesterol. It also prevents free radicals from oxidizing LDL cholesterol, which could otherwise contribute to inflammation that damages arteries and contributes to atherosclerosis.
Acts as an anti-inflammatory
While acute inflammation is beneficial and necessary to heal things like cuts and sprained ankles, systemic inflammation is a factor in chronic disease. Systemic inflammation is caused by a wide variety of nutritional, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Olive Leaf Extract helps to decrease the the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines involved in the development of systemic inflammation.
Improves overall cardiovascular health
Olive leaf extract helps fight damage to the vascular endothelium, the thin layer of cells lining the blood vessels. This damage is called endothelial dysfunction, and contributes to the hardening of the arteries in atherosclerosis.
Truehope OLE is an essential part of a cardioprotective lifestyle. We recommend taking one 500mg capsule twice a day (at minimum) to reap the heart healthy benefits!
At Truehope we have first hand experience with suicide. Our founder Anthony Stephan’s wife Debora, followed in her father’s footsteps and succumbed to suicide after her 10 year battle with bipolar disorder. As the sole provider for their 10 children, Anthony later realized two of his children, Joseph and Autumn, had inherited their mothers disorder. The psychiatric medications that had failed his wife were now also failing his children.
The story of how Truehope began is an unusual one, and it makes us passionate about mental health and suicide prevention. In Canada, suicide is the leading cause of death for both men and women from the teenage years to middle age. Among 15-24 year olds, 24% of deaths are due to suicide. Among 25-44 year olds, the number is 16% (CAMH).
Mental health problems such as depression are thought to come from a complex mix of genetic, biological, personality, and environmental factors. There are many influences at play, so what can you do support your loved ones in their mental health, and prevent suicide?
Know the warning signs
Is there a high risk?
Additional signs in your loved one that require you take immediate action:
What you can do
If you suspect a loved one is struggling and considering suicide, it can be hard to know what to do. We recommend:
In an emergency do not leave the person on their own, and always call 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency department.
We can all admit it’s often a struggle to express our feelings. With mental health issues, there’s the added barriers of stigma and the potential for discrimination. There is help, and there is a way to find health and more meaning in life.
We want to provide nothing but the highest quality information and advice for our followers to improve their health, which is why at Truehope Canada, we're happy to say our writer is a Certified Life Coach and Registered Holistic Nutritionist.