The ABCD’s of Heart Disease

How to navigate life post diagnosis and achieve better outcomes while navigating heart health.

This article is for information and entertainment purposes only and does not replace the valuable advice of doctors, nurses, exercise physiologists and other members of your heart health team.

A is for Activity. As you may have heard, the Canadian government recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week. That means activity at which you can talk but not sing, and feel your heart rate and body temperature rise slightly. Walk the dog, go for a bike ride, or take a virtual exercise class, as people who moved more have been seen to experience better outcomes post diagnosis.

B is for Blood Pressure (check out the pulse blog on Blood pressure here) . High Blood pressure increases our risk for heart attack more than any other risk factor. Additionally, low blood pressure may result in dizziness, fainting and a fall risk. Know your number and own the solution, whether that be diligently taking your medication, or ditch habits that may contribute to high blood pressure; such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, or consuming alcohol in excess.

C is for Cholesterol. These fatty plaques can build up on the walls of our blood vessels, raising our blood pressure, and risking blocking our blood vessels completely, causing heart attacks or strokes. Increasing our fiber intake, reducing our consumption of trans fats, and adhering to any medications prescribed are the best strategy to controlling our cholesterol.

D is for Diet. We’re using “diet” as a catch-all term for what we eat and drink here. Opt for heart healthy options with tons of colourful vegetables, leafy greens, lean proteins with treats in moderation ! Try to limit fried, sugary, overly salty foods and excess alcohol. Instead, fill your plate according to the Myplate guide, and wash it down with still or sparkling water.

S is for Smoking & Stress. Wonder why you’re always being told to “butt it out” by your health care team? It’s for good reason. Smoking is a known cause of the build-up of plaques in our arteries which can cause heart attacks and strokes. It also contributes to the formation of blood clots in our veins which can become dislodged, lodging again in our lungs (pulmonary embolism) or our brains, causing stroke. Your risk for heart attack goes down within 24 hours of stopping smoking (Heart & Stroke Foundation, 2020) so it’s never too late to put down the tobacco.

Stressed? Psychological and social stress has been associated with negative outcomes in individuals with heart disease. Making time for self-care, chatting with a professional and managing stress is more than small bananas in managing a health care diagnosis. Take a yoga class on the exercise database, take a nap, or check out some apps designed to improve our state of mind.