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February is Heart Month

February is Heart Month and we would like to share with you some vital information on maintaining good heart health and a few tips for catering your employee benefits plan to achieve this goal.

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Did you know: Every seven minutes in Canada, a life is taken by heart disease or stroke.

While this number may sound somewhat alarming, it is also an important reminder that we must acknowledge this growing issue in pursuit of a healthier, heart lifestyle.  There has been a significant shift in the way doctors approach heart health in recent years, that is attempting to shift the emphasis from negative to positive. By promoting a more holistic, well balanced lifestyle, rather than simply reacting to  issues which may have been preventable in the first place, we can save money on costly treatment and strive for a better quality of life.

One of the main reason why cardiovascular disease can be so dangerous is because it can develop silently. Quite often there are are very few to no visible warning signs; you cannot see such things as high cholesterol or high blood pressure – which is why doctors promote annual checkups which can detect asymptomatic conditions.

There are seven main risk factors which may negatively impact heart health:

Smoking – increases blood pressure and contributes to the development of blocked arteries.

Lack of exercise – people who do not exercise regularly are at a greater risk of developing heart disease. The heart is a muscle after all, and needs to be used.

Unhealthy diet – risks are greater for people who do not eat enough fruits and vegetables and from eating food that contains trans-fats, saturated fats and high levels of sodium.

Being overweight – increases the risk of a wide range of heart diseases and conditions.

Diabetes – increases the risk of heart disease, especially if blood sugar levels are poorly controlled

High blood pressure – high blood pressure, over time,  can lead to heart attacks, strokes, or a thick heart muscle (hypertrophy), which could eventually lead to heart failure.

High cholesterol – too much bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) can lead to blockage of the arteries, which also raises the risk of heart disease.

Stress – high levels of stress or prolonged stress may result in high cholesterol, increased blood pressure, or disturbances in heart rhythm. These conditions increase the risk of developing heart disease.

These factors may also be used to identify probable risk and circumvent potential issues before there are any visible signs, or even worse, a major cardiac event (heart attack, stroke, cardiac arrest). It is important to note that a large percentage of these events are preventable by taking the precautionary measures provided by a health care professional. Some patients do experience physical symptoms, however, before one of these events occurs, like shortness of breath and/or chest pain. If you or someone you know has been experiencing any of these symptoms, it is in your best interest to seek out a medical professional immediately.


How can you improve upon heart health?

There are some basic principles to follow to start living a healthy, heart lifestyle. The main key to this lifestyle is remembering that it starts with you, there is no one size fits all approach, but if you focus on making small, consistent changes you can be well on your way to this healthier lifestyle.

It’s easy to make excuses; work’s too busy, I’m tired when I get home, I don’t like visiting the doctor, but there is no better time than the present to start taking small steps towards this.


How does this impact your employee benefits plan?

Poor diet, lack of exercise and other major risk factors for heart disease and stroke are responsible for at least 25 percent of companies health care costs. This statistic alone, proves that one of the best decisions a company can make, is to implement a wellness program that targets cardiovascular disease. By creating a wellness program, you can lower your health care cost on expensive prescription drugs, and life insurance and protect your most important resource – your employees.

If you need help getting started on the path to a healthier lifestyle, contact your plan administrator. You may have some options in terms of EAP’s and wellness programs, which may be able to assist you on your journey. If you never change anything you will never see new results. So seize the day and take a moment out of your busy schedule to evaluate your own heart health and your group benefits plan. If you do not feel like your plan is providing the right options, in terms of promoting this message – contact us today and we would be more than happy to help.