Heart and Stroke

On Friday June 3, the Medicine Hat branch of the Heart and Stroke Foundation had their 12th annual golf classic at Medicine Hat Golf and Country Club. I was one of the 160 golfers to participate in this fundraising event.

It is a big event. After 18 holes of golf (even the rain stopped for six hours for uninterrupted golf!), sumptuous dinner and some exciting prizes, I drove home thinking about the hard work done by people behind the scenes.

Darlene Neigum, Area Manager, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Alberta, NWT & Nunavut and her band of volunteers and sponsors work tirelessly to make this event a great success. It is an event worth waiting for each year.

Heart disease and stroke are subjects close to my heart as I have a strong family history of cardiac problems. The subject is also close to the hearts of many Canadians as heart disease is the number one killer in this country and in all the Western countries.

Heart and Stroke Foundation has a very interesting website (www.heartandstroke.ca). There is a lot of information to read and digest for a healthy heart.

Heart disease is usually a progressive disease occurring over many years. It is usually a result of bad genes and/or mismanagement of risk factors.

There are certain risk factors which we can influence in a positive way and there are some which are beyond our control. The risk factors that we can influence are:
-High blood cholesterol
-High blood pressure
-Lifestyle factors (lack of exercise, being overweight, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, stress) and
-Diabetes

The risk factors that we cannot change are:

-Age and gender (55+ for women, 45+ for men)
-Ethnic descent (African, South Asian, and First Nation populations are at higher risk)
-Family medical history – heart attack or stroke before age 65, angina, tendency to develop high blood cholesterol or blood pressure

Risk factors for stroke are very similar to heart disease. The best way to prevent heart disease and stroke is to work toward pursuing a healthy lifestyle. This includes daily exercise, eating a healthy dose of fruits and vegetables, keeping our weight within an acceptable range for our age and height, never to start smoking, drinking minimal amount of alcohol, and learning to manage stress.

Pursuing a healthy lifestyle will help control other risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol level. It is important to see a family physician on a regular basis and have these risk factors checked.

To pursue a healthy lifestyle is not easy or cheap. It requires significant amount of sacrifice and time commitment. It is a question of making choices. Not always easy to do that.

The volunteers with the Heart and Stroke Foundation make sacrifices and time commitment to organize fundraising events so that money can be spent on research and education to help people like me who are at a high risk for heart disease and stroke. In return we owe it to ourselves and our families to make a commitment to pursue a healthy lifestyle. Summer is a good time to do that.

Thought for the week:

“Even if we can’t be happy, we must always be cheerful.” – Irving Kristol.

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