February is Heart Month. Heart disease affects more than 2.4 million Canadian adults and is the second most common cause of death in Canada. And heart disease often begins with high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is known universally as the “silent killer.” Because there are usually no outward signs or symptoms of a problem, many people do not know they have hypertension. Uncontrolled or poorly controlled hypertension leads to Coronary Artery disease. This, in turn, can lead to Atherosclerosis (thickening/hardening of the walls of the arteries), Atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries) and even heart failure (where the heart can no longer pump blood properly.)
Everyone can lower their risk of heart disease with making healthy lifestyle choices. For example, 30 minutes of brisk exercise three times a week, following a well-balanced diet, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are all ways we can improve our cardiovascular health. And remember, “brisk exercise” means you should have difficulty holding a conversation while working out.
Being healthy does not mean that we cannot enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Just remember, moderation is the key. As the saying goes, “Too much of a good thing is bad.”
Healthy Diet, Healthy Heart
Heart health begins with a balanced diet. The Government of Canada recently revised its food guide. Instead of being a simple list of things we should and should not eat, it now offers tips on how to control portion size. The new guide also offers other useful resources, like recipes and information provided in a multitude of different languages. This information allows for greater personalization and advice on how to include different ethnic and cultural diets in your healthy eating plan.
As part of a healthy diet, you should read package labels for the amounts of sugar, sodium, and fat in the food you’re eating. Look for products that are low in these. Adding a multivitamin daily can also help us get our daily recommended intake of lots of vitamins and minerals our bodies need, especially as we get older.
Keep Your Heart Active
Getting enough daily exercise is another crucial component of heart health. Leading a sedentary lifestyle increases one’s risk of not only cardiovascular disease but also many other chronic conditions, such as diabetes.
Physical activity doesn’t have to include going to the gym. Going for a walk, taking the stairs, and playing with a pet are all examples of how we can integrate physical activity into our lives every day.
Remember: if you just are starting out, go slow! Begin with a 15-minute walk. How do you know how far to should walk? It’s easy! To keep it simple, walk for 7 ½ min in one direction and then turn around. As you keep at it, you’ll find you’ll be able to go farther and walk faster every time you go out.
Heart Month for Medical Professionals
What can our graduates do?
Pharmacy Assistants can assist your patients in following their medication regime. You can also encourage clients to have their blood pressure checked regularly and follow up with their physician. Having a good understanding of cardiovascular disease and treatments can go a long way in helping your clients. You can help them understand their condition, medications, and side effects they need to consider. You can help your clients keep accurate records of their blood pressure readings and assist them with arranging counselling and education with their pharmacist
As Medical Office Assistants, you have a direct link to your clients. You can encourage them to ask questions about their medications and their physician’s recommendations before they leave your clinic or hospital. The better your patients understand their condition and how to slow or even stop the progression of their disease makes it more likely they will follow their physician’s advice.
Love your heart, keep it happy and healthy to get the most enjoyment out of your life.