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

It is well known that there are several risk factors leading to the development of heart disease and stroke. In order to achieve primary and secondary prevention, modifiable risk factors such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia, sedentary life style, proper diet and smoking need to be addressed. In addition it is important to ask your physician to identify the risk of cardiac events in order to act early rather than waiting until an event occurs. Regarding secondary prevention post cardiac event, in addition to the above, compliance to proven mortality reducing medical therapies is crucial.

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

One cannot overemphasise the importance of cardiac rehabilitation for patients suffering a myocardial infarction. Studies show that rehabilitation has resulted in the reduction of future myocardial infarctions, readmissions to hospital and mortality rates. There are other benefits to cardiac rehabilitation such as comprehensive risk factor modification, identifying the optimal exercise regimen, alleviating fears and anxiety, and education regarding smoking cessation, sexual activity, driving and return to work. Because we still have challenges in having patients attend these programs, significant effort is utilized pre-discharge to improve patient enrollment. Evidence now points to benefits of earlier commencement of cardiac rehabilitation within a few weeks post-cardiac event.

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

Canadians should abide by a healthy diet and reduce their intake of sodium, sugar, and saturated fat, as well as exercise on a regular basis.  A Mediterranean diet high in fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oil and a reduced intake of meat has been shown to reduce cardiac events. High sodium consumption may result in hypertension leading to heart disease and stroke.  Regular exercise has many beneficial properties such as  improving cardiac conditioning, reducing blood pressure, obesity and insulin resistance, while elevating high density cholesterol (which is protective against heart disease) just to name a few. However, it is important to consult your physician when starting an exercise program.