Heart Disease

Lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of coronary problems


The leading cause of death in North America, heart disease (or cardiac disease) currently affects 27 million Americans and will claim over 600,000 lives this year alone. Quite simply, no disease or combination of diseases has more direct impact on the mortality of seniors in our society.

Heart disease is caused when your coronary arteries become clogged, blocked, inflamed, injured or infected; the blood flow to your heart can be reduced if any of these situations occurs.

Heart disease is also directly linked to heart attacks, angina and abnormal heart rhythms.

Family history, age and gender all play a role in the development of heart disease. Women after menopause and men over 55 are at a greater risk for heart disease.

There are lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce your risk of heart disease, they are:

  • quitting smoking
  • not having a high fat diet
  • lowering your blood cholesterol
  • increasing physical activity
  • lowering your blood pressure
  • losing weight
  • controlling diabetes properly

The most common symptoms of heart disease include:

  • shortness of breath
  • weakness or fatigue
  • chest discomfort
  • dizziness
  • palpitations

There are treatments available for those living with heart disease. Drug treatments can help lower blood pressure or cholesterol, prevent or dissolve blood clots and improve the strength or rhythm of the heart’s contractions.

In some cases medical procedures including heart transplants, implanting of cardiac defibrillators and coronary angioplasty are needed.

But for all people, especially seniors, prevention is the key to living a healthy life with a healthy heart.

A great way to prevent heart disease is to eat healthy. While it may seem like an obvious lifestyle change it could also save your life. Ways you can eat healthier include:

  • eating high fibre foods daily
  • using as little salt as you can
  • cooking with little or no fat
  • eating less meat, especially red meat
  • choosing low-fat dairy products
  • avoiding high-fat desserts and snacks

Changing all your eating habits at once can be overwhelming but if you gradually change them you will notice how much more energy you have and how better you feel and your heart will thank you for it in the long run.

To learn more about dealing with heart disease, contact the American Heart Association. In Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation is the principal source of information and support.