Heart Health: Steps to Longevity

Valentine’s Day falls in the month of February, so it is only fitting that we celebrate Heart Health this month!

Aside from being a symbol for love and affection, the heart is responsible for sending oxygen-rich blood to the body and sending oxygen-poor blood to the lungs. It is integral to all of our body’s systems and plays a vital role for muscular function. In addition, our circulatory system is highly dependent on our heart’s ability to create appropriate blood pressure.

With the heart being such an important organ, it is important that we keep it healthy and functioning optimally. Fortunately, there are things we can do to prevent heart problems. And, if we do have heart problems, there are things we can we do to make it better.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, taking these heart health steps, you are giving your it longevity in its role as a vital organ:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Participate in regular physical activity
  • Manage stress
  • Minimize intake of trans-fats and saturated-fats
  • Minimize alcohol consumption
  • Be smoke-free

These are all great ways to improve your heart health and reduce your chances of developing heart problems.

If the coronary arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart are blocked, this is considered coronary heart disease. According to the World Health Organization (2014), coronary heart disease is the single most common cause of death, globally. If the blood supply to the heart is interrupted enough, a person can suffer a myocardial infarction ( also known as a heart attack).

When a heart attack occurs, it means the blood supply to the heart itself has been compromised to the extent that portions of heart tissue die. The extent of damage to the heart itself is highly related to the amount of time left untreated. This can lead to mild to severe heart dysfunction.

With more individuals surviving heart attacks, it’s no surprise that physiotherapy and cardiac rehabilitation has helped to improve the lives of many survivors.

Cardiac rehabilitation consists of exercise-based interventions that target aerobic (oxygen-driven) movements. Typically, programs will consist of stationary cycling, walking on a treadmill, circuit training, full body stretching, and education.

As per the physiotherapist and physician’s assessment, exercise intensities can range from 50-85% maximum heart rate, 1-7X/week, 20-90 minutes (total session time), and last from 1-48 months. These intensities and duration are dependent on the severity and progress of a person’s heart attack.

Anderson et al., 2016 reviewed 63 Randomized Control Trials for cardiac rehabilitation and concluded that those who engaged in cardiac rehabilitation after having a heart attack significantly reduced their risk of mortality from another heart attack and improved their overall health-related quality of life.

In conclusion, take care of your own heart and ensure it gets the attention and love it deserves. Let’s make Heart Health Month, and all months that follow, healthy ones!

References:

  1. heartandstroke.ca
  2. who.int/en
  3. Exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation for coronary heart disease. Anderson et al. Cochrane Heart Group. January 5, 2016.

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