Last year, I did a big push for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, taking part in their October race and raising over $300 (thanks to your generosity) in much needed donations. This year, I'm making it my mission to raise awareness of HEART HEALTH. For those of you who've read my blog over the past couple of years, you'll know that heart health is a pretty big deal in our family. My dad had a heart attack 2 years ago this past Christmas. Mommikins has high blood pressure and so do I. On top of that, my father's side of the family has a very looooong history (amongst ALL his siblings but 1) of heart problems - heart attacks, angina, strokes - and it seems that they're coming earlier and earlier (one cousin had a heart attack at 42). As you can see, having a healthy ticker is something that is near and dear to my ... um ... well .... my heart.
Don't worry, I'm not going to spend the next 12 months hounding you to make a donation to the Heart and Stroke Foundation (but if you'd like to, click HERE). It certainly will be my charity of choice for an upcoming race (to be determined) but for now, I'm just looking at raising your awareness and helping you to take a few steps to improve your heart health.
There are certain factors that are out of your control when it comes to your risk of having a heart attack or stroke: age, gender, family history, ethnicity. For example, First Nations people and those of African or South Asian descent are more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes and therefore, are at greater risk of heart disease and stroke than the general population. And men, over the age of 55 years, and women after menopause are at greater risk of heart disease (source).
However, there are a number of things you CAN control: maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, avoiding stress, not smoking (or quitting if you're currently a smoker), avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol, and having your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly. Smoking is THE biggest risk factor for having a heart attack for women of ALL ages: your risk is increased by 2 - 5X. If you're a woman over 35, taking birth control, AND you smoke? The risk increases even more (source). My doctor couldn't be happier that I haven't had a single cigarette in over 3 years.
|I'm doing it for my heart ... really (and yes, the lighting in my apartment is horrible!).|
One of the things I'll be doing for myself this year, is having a bite of dark chocolate every single day. According to the Dieticians of Canada's website (and a gazillion news reports over the past few years), the flavonoids in dark chocolate and cocoa powder may have a beneficial effect on your heart health, and may also help improve your mood. Moderation is key though, as with all things. So, just one one-inch square each day is all I need. First up: Lindt's 75% Ecuador Dark Chocolate bar. I'm a BIG fan of the Lindt dark chocolate bars and will be working my way through most of them over the next 12 months.
I will also be having the occasional glass of red wine. You know the drill "studies have shown". Another example of how something, which in excess is terrible for you, in moderation can be good for your overall health. Suggestions for wines are appreciated; just make sure that its reasonable priced, tell me a bit about the taste/history, and why you like it. The only one I've found previously that I really enjoyed was an Australian Shiraz. Not a fan of overly sweet / dry wines. Something not too strong. Yeah yeah, I'm a picky eater.
So, 2012 is the year of Heart Health. I hope you'll join me and do what you can to ensure you have a strong healthy heart for years to come.