Cardiovascular disease, once considered a ‘man’s disease,’ is the number one killer of women in Canada and worldwide. Actually, women are more likely than men to die of a heart attack or stroke. As a result, this has now become the biggest health problem facing women. While some women may consider breast cancer to be the most important health issue for them, in fact, heart disease and stroke kills more than seven times as many Canadian women as breast cancer. Unfortunately, many women are still unaware they are at risk for heart disease and stroke.
On Wednesday, Feb. 20, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., the Agassiz Community Health Centre will be hosting a public information day about heart disease and stroke at the District of Kent Fitness/Activity Centre. In addition to an orientation to the weight room at 10:00 a.m., health professionals will be on site to do blood pressure testing and provide information about heart disease and stroke and living a healthy lifestyle. Available, specific to women, will be information about heart disease and stroke.
While there are some risk factors for heart disease and stroke that women can do something about, there are others women can’t control. The four major risk factors that cannot be changed are: 1. Age – As women age, the risk of heart disease increases and although strokes can occur at any age, most strokes occur in people older than 65. 2. Gender – Until women reach menopause, they have a lower risk of stroke than men, but women after menopause are at greater risk of heart disease (as are men over the age of 55). 3. Family history – The risk of heart disease is increased if close family members developed heart disease before age 55 or if a female relative developed heart disease before menopause. The risk of stroke is increased if close family members had a stroke before age 65. 4. Ethnicity – First Nations people and those of African or South Asian descent are more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes, so are at greater risk of heart disease and stroke than the general population.
The risk factors that women can do something about are: high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, high blood cholesterol, being overweight, physical activity, and stress. “Getting a handle” on these risk factors will require making lifestyle changes that can sometimes be difficult. But, if taken in a series of small steps, long-term behavioural changes are more likely to occur.
Women today are living longer and have greater expectations for living an active, healthy lifestyle. To help you get started achieving this goal, make time to visit the Fitness/Activity Centre on 20 February. Of course, the health professionals at the Agassiz Community Health Centre are available to evaluate your heart health and make suggestions about keeping your heart healthy and reducing your risk of stroke. Make doing this be the special gift of a valentine you give yourself this Heart Month.
(Agassiz Community Health Centre with credit to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.)