You Have The Power!

By Kelly Seward, RN - The Wellness Institute – Winnipeg 2004

Leading a healthy lifestyle can have a tremendous impact on one’s health. According to the U.S. Public Health Agency, 50% of the factors that determine all aspects of health arise from lifestyle choices. Considering that only 18% is derived from genetic makeup and 10% from the health care system, this puts a great deal of responsibility on an individual to maintain his or her own health. It also underscores the power that each person has to maintain and improve their health -mind, body and soul. Cardiovascular disease is largely a lifestyle disease. This means that many of the factors that cause cardiovascular disease can be minimized by choices that are made by each individual. The healthiest choices are to quit smoking, become physically active and make food choices according to the Canada Food Guide.

Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in Canada-50% of all smokers will die of a smoking related disease. The chemicals in smoke including second hand smoke cause such detrimental effects as decreased oxygen in the blood, increased blood clotting factors, increased LDL or “bad” cholesterol, decreased HDL or “good” cholesterol, irritation of the lining of the arteries, induction of coronary spasm, increased blood pressure and heart rate. These all contribute to the development of a heart attack.

Sedentary living is the major cause of the aging process and a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. Decreased muscle mass, decreased mental alertness and frailty can all be associated a decrease in physical activity. Inactivity is as harmful to your health as smoking. The good news is that it is never too late to start and each person has the power to improve his/her health by becoming active. The obvious benefits of exercise are fairly well known, a healthier distribution of fat, improved posture, and muscle tone, but many other benefits have also been described. These include improved mental ability, improved cholesterol profile, decreased blood pressure, improved sleep, relaxation and stress management patterns, better blood sugar control in diabetes, improved lower back pain, decreased clotting factors and improved heart function. Health Canada recommends 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week.

Choosing healthier foods is another method of managing and preventing cardiovascular disease. According to the Canada Food Guide eat a variety of foods, prepare food in little or no fat, limit caffeine, salt and alcohol, chose lower fat dairy products and lean meats and higher fibre foods. These choices will help control many of the hazards associated with cardiovascular disease including diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.

By making healthy lifestyle choices an individual can have a higher quality of life. It is one’s own responsibility to make the choices that will enhance health and well being.

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