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Most Canadians face risks to their heart health

Up to 80 per cent of premature heart disease and strokes deemed preventable
Signs of heart attack, shared by the Heart and Stroke Foundation during Heart Month. (Image submitted)

Nine out of 10 people in Canada have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke, so Heart Month matters to any of us.

February is Heart Month and a time of year when the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada shares tips to prevent heart attacks and passes along the kind of information that can help save lives for people who experience or witness heart attacks.

Up to 80 per cent of premature heart disease and strokes can be prevented, says the Heart and Stroke foundation, and many of the risk factors for heart attack can be controlled through healthy lifestyle choices.

Anyone can get on the path to preventing stroke and heart attack by adopting healthy habits and behaviours. The foundation suggests people limit salt and sugar intake, make it a goal to eat between five and 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, and choose breads and cereals made from whole grains or whole grain flours.

Another preventative measure is to try to set a little time aside each day to be physically active. Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week, or just under 30 minutes a day, the foundation suggests.

Avoiding smoking or giving it up altogether and limiting alcohol intake are also recommended. Women should limit their alcohol consumption to two drinks a day or up to 10 drinks per week, the foundation advises, while men should cap alcohol they consume at three drinks a day or a maximum of 15 drinks each week.

Stress can be another risk factor. Talk with family and friends, identify sources of stress and take time for yourself each day, says the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

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The importance of learning how to spot the signs of heart attack and stroke is a central message of Heart Month.

Each year, thousands of Canadians die from heart attacks because they don’t receive medical treatment quickly enough, the foundation says. The signs of a heart attack are not always the same from person to person and they may also not be sudden or severe. Some people might only experience one symptom, while others could have a combination of symptoms, which can include chest discomfort – a feeling of pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, burning or heaviness – sweating, upper body discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, arms or pessure in the upper back. Nausea, shortness of breath, light-headedness and extreme fatigue can also all be signs of the onset of a heart attack.

If you experience any of the signs of a heart attack, call 911 immediately or have someone call for you.

To learn more about how to prevent heart attacks and strokes, visit

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About the Author: Nanaimo Bulletin News Staff

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