Despite the fact that heart disease and stroke are 80% preventable, they now account for 28% of all Canadian deaths. They are also the leading cause of hospitalization, costing the Canadian economy $22.2 billion dollars per year. 1.3 million Canadians live with heart disease and 9 out of 10 are at risk due to one of the following factors:
• High blood pressure
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• High cholesterol
• Physical inactivity
Despite the staggering number of deaths resulting from heart disease, many Canadians with damaged hearts continue to live longer. In fact, 77% of Canadians survive heart attacks and 85% survive strokes; however, the chance of impairment and disability are high. Only 10 out of every 100 people who suffer from a stroke will recover completely.
Healthy lifestyle changes can lower the incidence of heart disease dramatically. So why aren’t Canadians doing more? Is it because we have too much confidence in surgeons and medical professionals to deal with problems when they occur?
After Christiaan Bernard performed the first heart transplant in 1967, the explosion of technology improved the outcome of cardiovascular surgeries dramatically. Bypass surgery, heart valve repair and insertion of stents to improve blood flow are now common procedures to treat heart disease and help people live longer. Unfortunately, our confidence in doctors to temporarily “fix” heart disease is likely the largest de-motivator in preventing it.
Lifestyle improvements that reduce health risks can be very difficult for people to initiate and sustain, and the comfort of knowing that these “fixes” are available doesn’t make the task any easier.
However, what is true for heart disease is not true for diseases of the brain like Vascular Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s. Conditions like these cannot be treated through surgical intervention in general. They can only be prevented and rehabilitated after disease or injury from a stroke. Because the steps that a person can take to create a healthy and resilient brain are very similar to those needed for a healthy heart, it could be that the exploding rates of dementing conditions like Vascular Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s is what will finally have people taking action.
At our Centre, we have created a Brain Health Program that recognizes the tremendous control we have in our lifestyle choices to “anti-age” and improve our brain. These same lifestyle choices will have a tremendous impact in lowering your risk of heart disease. Important components of both a brain and a heart health program are exercise, nutrition, weight management, stress management and sleep.
Dedication to a brain health program is a leap forward in achieving complete health.