1. How can Canadians decrease their risk of heart disease and stroke?

There is simply no greater, more powerful medicine to decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke than exercise. Exercise benefits the heart and mind and improves risk factors including blood pressure, glucose control and cholesterol. Small steps can have big effects. If you sit for most of the day, standing breaks can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and death. Studies show that walking for just 10 minutes per day is associated with big health gains.  Further benefits can be realized by increasing to 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity (like a brisk walk) but you don’t need to run marathons! Since more than 85 percent of Canadians are inactive today, exercise remains the most impactful intervention at the population level to reduce cardiovascular disease

2. Why is rehabilitation so important to a patient’s recovery process?

Rehabilitation following almost any medical intervention is fundamental to recovery and prevention of future problems.  Cardiac rehab improves fitness, strength and heart function for patients who participate in a regular individualized exercise program.  In addition to many physical benefits, cardiac rehab has been shown to increase self-confidence, reduce stress, depression and anxiety, and can facilitate an earlier return to work and other regular activities. Perhaps the most compelling evidence for cardiac rehab rests in research that shows heart attack patients who undertake a formal program reduce their risk of death by up to 25 percent.

3. What are three heart health habits that all Canadians should abide by?

The three buckets of fitness, nutrition and lifestyle deserve our attention and more importantly, our action every day. Get moving. Stay active. Live longer. Dedicating 30 minutes a day to moderate physical activity provides the biggest return on heart and overall health. A balanced diet anchored by a wide selection of fresh fruits and vegetables and heart-healthy food choices is optimal and entirely feasible with advanced planning.  Studies show that healthy diets reduce risk of heart disease. Embed lifestyle tweaks into behaviours that will become habits.  Stand and stretch every 30 minutes at your desk.  Sleep at least 7 hours a day and improve your response to stress.  Moderate alcohol intake and seek support to quit smoking.