Listen to Your Heart

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When it comes to heart health, there are some factors we can control and others we can’t.

“A family history, previous heart condition, age and ethnicity are all risk factors that you can’t change, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very important in preventing heart disease,” says Bhavika Prajapati, pharmacist-owner of a Shoppers Drug Mart in Vaughan, Ontario.  For these non-modifiable risk factors, it’s important to discuss your family history with your doctor to help you understand your risk – and to identify factors that you can change, like quitting smoking.

Cardiovascular disease has serious consequences, including heart attack and stroke.  Stroke can result in speech impairment, brain damage, hospitalization and death.  Prevention of heart attack and stroke requires early recognition and management of modifiable risk factors over which we have some control:  healthy eating, physical activity, quitting smoking, controlling cholesterol, managing high blood pressure, controlling blood sugar and maintaining a healthy weight.  That may sound easier said than done, but your doctor and pharmacist are there to help you with advice and support.

Here are some tips to make your heart health a little better:

  • Reduce your stress with yoga. In fact, Harvard researchers have found that yoga lowered blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate and other cardiovascular risk factors at a level comparable to aerobic exercise.
  • Lower your sodium intake. Too much salt causes your body to retain water, which increases blood pressure and makes your heart work harder.  Processed foods, fast food and foods with preservatives have more sodium than whole foods.
  • Consider taking supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve heart health, and you can ask your pharmacist if a supplement is right for you.  Just remember that supplements are no replacement for prescription medication and don’t treat high blood pressure, hypertension or heart disease.
  • Aspirin (ASA) isn’t for everyone. While it thins blood and prevents clotting, it can also increase the risk of bleeding.  That’s why you should only take regular aspirin therapy under the supervision of a doctor or a pharmacist.

While most signs of early heart disease are silent and are diagnosed in a doctor’s office, your local Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist can also help.  “You can monitor your heart health at home with a Hypertension Canada-approved blood pressure monitor, which is available at Shoppers Drug Mart. Taking your blood pressure can help evaluate your risk of heart disease, hypertension and high blood pressure,” says Ms. Prajapati.

Finally, taking your medication exactly as prescribed is crucial to managing your heart health.  If you have any questions or concerns about side effects or need tips on how to manage your medications, your pharmacist can help.

To find out more about how your lifestyle, medications and supplements affect your heart health, speak to your local Shoppers Drug Mart Pharmacist today.  Find a pharmacist near you at