Heart Month: Keeping your heart healthy

Bayshore | | Health and Wellness

Doctor listening to man's heart

February is Heart Month, an opportunity to raise awareness about the role the heart plays in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. One person dies in Canada every five minutes from heart conditions, stroke or vascular cognitive impairment. It is important to learn to recognize the signs of a heart attack so you can react quickly and save a life.

Warning Signs of Heart Disease and Stroke

The warning signs of a heart attack are below:

  • Chest discomfort (noticeably uncomfortable chest pressure, tightness, feeling fullness and pain as well as burning)
  • Discomfort in the upper region of the body such as the neck, jaw, shoulder, back and arms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Hot flashes and sweating
  • Light-headedness

Between 40,000 and 50,000 Canadians are hospitalized each year for strokes, and about 15,000 of these are fatal.. Strokes can happen at any age, however, after the age of 55 the risk of stroke doubles every ten years. The warning signs of stroke are below:

  • Weakness or sudden loss of strength
  • Numbness in the body, especially face, arms and legs
  • Sudden difficulty speaking and understanding as well sudden confusion
  • Distinct trouble with vision
  • Severe and unusual headaches
  • Rapid loss of balance, especially when coupled with any of the above symptoms

Warning signs of heart disease and stroke should not be taken lightly. While heart disease and stroke are treatable, like any other disease, it is best to diagnose early to ensure the person is able to receive necessary care, treatment and support.

Treatment for heart disease includes a wide array of medication, surgeries and therapies. People suffering from a heart disease should consult their doctor to decide which medical option is best for them, given their condition.

Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

The best defense against heart disease and stroke is to take control of the risk factors that could escalate to coronary artery disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, stress, excessive alcohol consumption, being overweight and physical inactivity.

There are only four risk factors we cannot control, age, gender, ethnicity and genetics; however, we can control how we live our lives. Almost all risk factors can be controlled:

  • High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for heart disease and stroke
  • High blood cholesterol (also known as high levels of fat in your body) is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke
  • Diabetes develops when your body does not produce enough insulin, or does not effectively use the insulin it produces
  • Being overweight and obese are major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. If you can achieve and maintain a healthy weight, our risk of heart disease and stroke is significantly reduced
  • Drinking too much of any alcohol cause high blood pressure and may lead to a heart disease or stroke
  • People who are physically inactive are twice as likely to be at risk of heart disease or stroke as those who are physically active
  • Smoking and being exposed to second hand smoke has many negative health effects that increase the risk of developing heart disease and stroke
  • Excessive stress can be harmful to your health and increase the chance of heart disease and stroke by raising your blood pressure and blood cholesterol

Caring for Somebody Living with Heart Disease and Stroke

After somebody suffers from a heart disease or stoke, it is normal for them to feel more tired than usual as their body is still healing and needs time to rest and rejuvenate. The person who has suffered from heart disease or stroke will need to take some time off work or if retired, focus on resting. There are many steps a caregiver or family member can take to make life a little easier:

  • Encourage your loved one to engage in cardiac rehabilitation.
  • Be empathetic and understand that your loved one may have trouble with memory and thinking.
  • Break tasks into small steps and help them complete each step slowly.
  • Go out for regular walks to get their blood circulating and start a routine of daily exercise as a first step towards a heart-healthy lifestyle.
  • Turn to housekeeping or home support services that can help with home care and cleaning.
  • Go over healthy eating options and encourage them to turn their health around, starting with the right diet.

Treatment for heart disease includes a wide array of medication, surgeries and therapies. People suffering from a heart disease should consult their doctor to decide which medical option is best for them, given their condition.


Caring for someone with cardiovascular disease can be a complex task. You can find out what services are available in your community from a number of sources:

Canadian Cardiovascular Society

Heart and Stroke Foundation

Canadian Society Smokers Helpline

Disclaimer: Bayshore is pleased to provide information that educates you as you strive to care for your loved ones. This article contains information about Heart Disease & Stroke. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. For more information on Heart Disease & Stroke, please consult your doctor.