You can’t beat a healthy heart. The human cardiovascular system includes the heart and blood vessels. Its main functions are to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, and to remove carbon dioxide and waste products. As the most efficient muscle in the body, it will beat approximately 2 ½ billion times in the average human lifetime, beats approximately 100,000 times a day, and pumps 7200 liters of blood through our body each day. Cardiovascular disease or diseases of the heart and blood vessels are now the second leading cause of death in Canada, and accounted for 22% of all deaths in Canada in 2010. In Canada, one death every 7 minutes occurs due to heart disease, and 1 heart attack occurs every 7 minutes as well. Heart disease costs our health care system more than $22 billion every year, is the leading cause of hospitalizations in Canada, accounting for almost 17% of hospital admissions. Over 90% of Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease or stroke.
There are six types of heart disease. Ischemic heart disease is the most common, in which blocked arteries reduce the blood flow to the heart, resulting in heart attack. Cerebrovascular disease occurs as a result of blocked arteries in the brain, reducing blood flow and causing a stroke. Peripheral vascular disease occurs when the circulation in the legs is reduced, which is caused by blockages or clots in blood vessels. The main symptoms are leg pain and aching, and often visible ropy varicose veins. Heart failure results from damage to the heart caused by heart attack or heart muscle disease. This results in the heart being unable to supple adequate blood and oxygen to the body. Rheumatic and congenital heart disease are both difficult to prevent. They are caused by either a childhood bacterial infection or birth defect, resulting in damage to the heart valves or the heart muscle itself.
There are several risk factors for heart disease, including several lifestyle and health factors, all of which are treatable and modifiable with naturopathic medicine.
Lifestyle factors include smoking, inactivity, unhealthy diet, and stress. Health factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Smoking reduces oxygen levels in the blood, increases heart rate, and contributes to the formation of arterial plaque. Smoking doubles the risk of stroke, and increases the chance of dying from heart disease by 70%. Smoking causes 40-45% of heart disease in people under the age of 65. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing heart disease by 50% in 1 year, and to normal levels within 5 years.
Regular exercise keeps the heart healthy. Over 50% of Canadians are mostly inactive, which doubles the risk of heart disease. Even moderate exercise can reduce other risk factors. Try walking 15 minutes a day, every day. In just a few short weeks you will find that your blood pressure is reduced, your energy improved, you have started to lose a bit of weight, and your overall risk is beginning to lower.
Next time I will discuss the dietary strategies and health factors that you can work on to make sure your heart is healthy. For your complete heart health assessment, call Dr Maureen-The County Naturopath 613-476-5444 and be proactive in reducing your risk today!