February 7, 2005

90% of heart attacks can be predicted – Most can be prevented

NEWMARKET – February is Heart Health Month and York Region Health Services offers tips to living a heart healthy lifestyle  ... and preventing heart disease.
For more information please click here to go to the .PDF brochure
York Region Public Health Nutritionists suggest that there are some measures we can take to prevent a heart attack, including keeping blood cholesterol levels in check, eating vegetables and fruit and maintaining a healthy waist-line.
A new Canadian-led international study indicates that heart attacks can be predicted over 90% of the time by the presence of nine easily measurable risk factors.  The impact of these risk factors in developing heart disease is consistent with men and women, across all age groups, geographic regions and ethnic groups. This means that wherever you are in the world and regardless of your age or ethnic background, your risk for a heart attack can be predicted by the same nine factors.
The study found that the two most important risk factors are smoking and abnormal blood lipid levels. Jointly, these two factors account for two-thirds of the risk for a heart attack. Other factors that predict risk include abdominal obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stress, lack of vegetables and fruit, alcohol intake, and level of physical activity. These factors combined could predict over 90% of the risk of a heart attack.
How can you reduce your risk?
Good news! All of these risk factors are considered “modifiable,”meaning that they are largely dependent on your lifestyle and you have a certain degree of control over them.
In fact, the study indicated that regular consumption of vegetables and fruit could reduce your risk of a heart attack by 30%.  If you increase your levels of physical activity and stop smoking, the risk can be reduced by about 80%. 
Health Canada and Public Health Nutritionists at York Region Health Services advocate that people aim for a minimum of five servings of vegetables and fruit daily, as recommended in Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating.  Vegetables and fruit contain health protective vitamins and minerals, fibre and other beneficial plant compounds. Many of the beneficial compounds found in vegetables and fruit act as antioxidants, help to reduce LDL (bad) blood cholesterol levels, prevent the formation of blood clots and help maintain a healthy blood pressure. 
Additionally, vegetables and fruit have been shown to be beneficial in preventing diseases such as cancer and stroke, and they can help maintain a healthy weight by displacing foods that are higher in fat and calories.
As for abdominal obesity, studies indicate health risk increases with an increasing waist size. In fact, it was shown that a thick waist accounted for a 20% increased risk for a heart attack. Health Canada outlines that a waist size greater than 102cm (40 inches) in men and 88cm (35 inches) in women is associated with increased risk.
Prevention is key!
When making lifestyle changes for a healthy heart and body, take it one step at a time. Small changes to your eating habits can result in large benefits to your health. Don’t be discouraged. Rome was not built in one day so don’t expect to change your eating habits instantly. Making small changes over a longer period of time will increase your chances for success. For example, enjoy one more fruit each day or make a commitment to start your day off with a healthy breakfast.  Each small step adds to a healthier you.
For current nutrition and other related health information, speak to a Registered Dietitian at York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or visit www.york.ca.
Attachment:  Printable flyer-5-10 Fruits and Vegetables a day

Contact:  Sandra Crescenzi, York Region Health Services

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