Heart Health Month reminds us to care for our hearts
Supporting Island families
During Heart Health Month Islanders are encouraged to speak with their primary care provider about their risk for heart disease and how they can live heart healthy.
“February is an opportunity for all of us as Islanders to think about our own heart health and what we can do to improve it,” said Health and Wellness Minister Robert Mitchell. “We can reduce our risk for heart disease and other heart conditions by making healthier lifestyle choices every day through our diet and exercise. I encourage everyone to speak with their family physician or nurse practitioner about their risk factors for heart disease and what other steps can be taken, including programs and services that can help.”
The major risk factors for cardiovascular disease include: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and family history of early cardiovascular disease. Other important risk factors include obesity and lack of physical activity.
"Our heart is the engine that makes our body run. We have to protect it as it is such a vital organ to our health and well-being. Heart disease has a big impact on how we feel, how long people live and, increasingly, it has been linked to other diseases such as stroke and dementia,” said cardiologist Dr. Alex MacLean.
“There are a lot of great programs underway here on PEI that support heart health – such as cardiac rehab and heart health clinics – and there is a need to grow and improve these programs,” MacLean said. “As health care providers, it’s important that we continue to educate and empower Islanders about their heart health; however, I feel strongly that Islanders also need to take responsibility for their own heart health. “
About one in 12 Islanders aged 20 and older are living with heart disease, and approximately 1,200 Islanders will experience an acute cardiac event each year. Heart attacks happen more frequently in men; however, other cardiovascular events happen more commonly in women.
MacLean says that addressing risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and obesity is the best chance we have at reducing Islanders’ risk of a cardiovascular event.
“Our annual report to Canadians released today includes research that shows a deeper connection between heart disease, stroke and vascular cognitive impairment – a decline in thinking abilities caused by disease that damages the brain's blood vessels – than previously known,” said Sarah Crozier, Manager of Health Promotion for Heart & Stroke in PEI. “As we recognize Heart Health Month, it is vital that Islanders practice healthy living and become aware of their risk for heart disease and stroke, and take the steps they can to reduce it."
Get more information about chronic disease prevention and management, including risk factors.
Cardiovascular diseases are those of the heart and circulatory system, and include:
- coronary artery disease;
- congestive heart failure; and
- valvular heart disease.
Tips for reducing risk factors for heart disease or a heart event:
- quit smoking;
- incorporate physical activity into a daily routine;
- eat a well-balanced diet;
- incorporate leisure activities to manage stress;
- take blood pressure and cholesterol medications as prescribed if you are on medication;
- for individuals with diabetes, it is imperative to keep your blood sugar levels within a normal range;
- strive to achieve a normal body weight;
- be as willing to attend to mental health problems like anxiety and depression as you would a physical medical condition; and
- know the warning signs of a heart attack.
Last year, more than 500 Islanders accessed programs such as the provincial Heart Health Clinic, Remote Patient Monitoring Program and Cardiac Rehabilitation Program to help them manage their heart disease or recover after a experiencing a heart event.
Heart Health Clinic:
The provincial Heart Health Clinic, which started as a pilot program at the QEH in 2009, helps individuals with cardiovascular disease manage risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The nurse also provides education and medication monitoring to patients with Heart Failure. The clinic’s emphasis is on reducing hospitalization and mortality, while improving overall quality of life. Patients are referred to the clinic by their physician with a consultation from an internal medicine specialist.
Remote Patient Monitoring Program:
Patients in the 12-week program use program-provided equipment to take their vitals daily – weight, blood pressure, pulse, and oxygen levels –and send them electronically to the program nurse. The nurse provides education and self-management support and can make adjustments to the care plan if needed in collaboration with the physician or nurse practitioner.
Remote patient monitoring programs are becoming more common across Canada, supporting individuals living with chronic diseases such as congestive heart failure.
Cardiac Rehab Program:
Cardiac Rehabilitation (Cardiac Rehab) is a 12-week program that helps an individual to recover from a heart attack, heart failure or a procedure such as angioplasty, stenting or heart surgery. Cardiac Rehab does not replace medical therapy. It is used with medical therapy to enhance an individual’s recovery and reduce the risk of a future cardiac event. Cardiac rehab may include:
- A detailed initial assessment of all aspects of you and your health
- Exercise training supervised by a physiotherapist, registered nurse, and respiratory therapist
- Education on heart disease and how to manage it
- Strategies to reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease
- Nutritional counseling by a registered dietitian
- Other counseling and/or group support