February is Heart and Stroke Month

How can YOU prevent a heart attack?

One of the first things you can do is to become physically active!

Every year in BC, physical inactivity produces 1,700 premature deaths, while obesity is responsible for 2,000 premature deaths. These are deaths that can be avoided.

As a Healthy Living Program Coordinator for Northern Health, I work with a lot of people who are trying to make healthy lifestyle changes. Being more active and conscious of food choices can sometimes be a struggle, but the end benefits are well worth it.

Research has shown that physical inactivity is as much of a risk factor for cardiovascular disease as smoking. If people were more active, most of us would feel stronger, more energetic, think more clearly, sleep more restfully, and, most importantly, we would decrease our risk for heart attacks, heart conditions and stroke…the list goes on.

In fact, the list of the benefits from exercise includes:

?Improves strength, endurance, flexibility

?Increases good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol

?Increases bone mineral density

?Prevents and treats osteoporosis and colon cancer

?Prevention of musculoskeletal problems (like lower back pain)

?Improves self-confidence and self-esteem

?Maintenance of healthy body composition (fat and lean body mass)

It only takes 30 minutes a day of accumulative physical activity to reap health benefits. Walk 10 minutes in the morning, fit in 10 minutes of rigorous chores, and do 10 minutes of power shopping – including carrying your grocery bags to the car or home – and you’ve already met your daily quota!

February is Heart and Stroke Month and a great time for you to evaluate your activity level and make some changes. If you are inactive or have a condition, check with your doctor before starting a program. There are several resources out there to guide you along or you can go to your local recreational facility and have a registered personal trainer help you develop a program.

The point is…get going! Find out what activity excites you or stirs your passion, and go for it. It does not matter how inactive or how old you are. Benefits are gained at any starting point.

The other things you can do to avoid a heart attack and stroke are: don’t smoke; maintain normal blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose; know your family history; balance the stress in your life; and eat healthy.

For more information on improving your heart health, contact your local health unit or your family physician. You can also visit:

?The Heart and Stroke Foundation at www.heartandstroke.ca or call 1-888-473-4636

?The Canadian Association of Cardiac Rehabilitation at www.cacr.ca or call (204) 488-5854

?The BC Recreation and Parks Association at www.bcrpa.bc.ca or call (604) 273-8055

Karen Berezon

Coordinator, Healthy Living Program

Northern Health