There’s a great quote that goes, “Health isn’t everything, but without it everything else is nothing.” Truth. Happier aging includes good health and since February is heart month, let’s look at heart health here.
Remember when you got really sick that time and you had that moment when you would have done anything to get better? Doubt crept into your heart like a spider in the night and you actually wondered for a time if you were even going to get better at all. Remember that feeling you had when you would have traded anything to get your health back? It’s a dark feeling, hopelessness. No amount of money, job, nice car, toy, or material possession mattered in that moment. It was all trivial compared to the value of your health. Let’s play in that space for a moment — will you do that with me? Let’s think long-term health and dive in to the most important health/risk factors for our hearts — since February is heart health month.
The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada lists these as the primary risk factors for heart disease:
• Unhealthy diet
• Lack of physical activity
• Unhealthy weight
• Excess alcohol and/or drug abuse
Surprising? Not so much, right?
Did you know that every seven minutes in Canada someone dies from heart disease or stroke? Or that 29 per cent of all deaths in Canada are from heart disease? Aboriginal people are 1.5 to two times more likely to develop heart disease. Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada and causes people to go broke because they may not be able to work.
The good news? The Heart & Stroke foundation says that up to 80 per cent of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through your lifestyle habits such as eating a healthy diet and being physically active.
The worst news? Stress is ever increasing and is as bad (if not worse!) than any of the other risk factors. Stress kills! Chronic stress (the kind from the North American lifestyle) causes chronic increases in adrenaline and cortisol, blood pressure and harmful oxidation and inflammation in the body (primary risk factors for heart disease) and a myriad of other unhealthy effects to your internal chemistry. It literally kills you from the inside out.
The take home message here is, yes, eat better and take vitamins/minerals/omega 3s, but also make sure you manage your stress! In addition to healthy lifestyle changes, it is so important to address the stress. Acknowledge it. Find ways to laugh more. Meditate or just practice slow, relaxed, deep (diaphragmatic) breathing for five minutes a day — especially at the deep stress moments. Have a hobby you enjoy. And avoid stressing over the small stuff that gets you going, but really isn’t life changing stuff. Chill out a bit (lot) more. And, as late comedian George Carlin said it best, “Don’t sweat the petty stuff, and don’t pet the sweaty stuff!”