Be Smart and Take Care of Your Heart: Lifestyle Changes To Promote A Healthy Heart And Holistic Well Being

Be Smart and Take Care of Your Heart: Lifestyle Changes To Promote A Healthy Heart And Holistic Well Being
By: Sharon Chandra

“Ring, ring.”

“Hello” I say after answering.

“Sharon you have to come home. Your dad was taken to the hospital, I am not sure what happened, but he collapsed.”

It was New Years Day 2003, and I was visiting a friend who lived over an hour away from my home. I stood in shock holding the phone as I heard my stepmother speak these words. I had later learned my dad had suffered a major heart attack and fell into a coma. Three days later, he was taken off tlife support and he passed away.

Heart disease is a world wide health concern, and according to the World Health Organization, globally, it is the number one cause of death.1 Did you know, every 7 minutes in Canada, someone dies from heart disease or stroke? It is the number one killer in women and both of these are leading causes of death in Canada.2 In addition, heart disease cost the Canadian economy over $2.9 billion each year in direct and indirect health expenditures.3

Heart disease is any injury to the cardiovascular system, which includes the heart and blood vessels (arteries and veins) that run through the body and brain. A stroke happens when there is a disturbance of blood flowing specifically to the brain. There are a number of risk factors for heart disease and stroke including, physical inactivity, poor diet, obesity, alcohol, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Nine out of 10 Canadians have at least one of these risk factors.4

Due to the seriousness of the issue, February is dedicated as National Heart Awareness month. During this time the Heart and Stroke Foundation places ads, web banners, posters, and publications and communications to create awareness. Also, many volunteers will canvas around neighbourhoods for donations to support life-saving research.

The more risk factors you have the greater your chances are of having heart disease. Therefore, it is important to understand and take the necessary steps to control the modifiable risk factors. Small differences can make a big difference! For example, it is estimated that if you are inactive and become physically active, you can reduce your risk of having a heart attack between 35-55%.5

Now my dad was 54 years of age at the time of his heart attack. He was as healthy as can be! He exercised, did not smoke and his cholesterol and blood pressure were in check according to his doctor. Just over a year before the attack, he did have his cholesterol examined and it was elevated, but by watching what he ate, he was able to bring it back down to normal levels. However, I do believe his stress levels were high. The relationships between stress and heart disease and stroke is unclear, however high levels of stress may make individuals prone to developing atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries from cholesterol and fat buildup.

One new emerging area of interest is the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are essential because the body cannot synthesize them but they are necessary for your health. They are found naturally in oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna), nuts, seeds, and even in some leafy green vegetables (kale and mustard greens). Krill oil extracted from krill, which are ocean crustaceans, is a significant source of omega-3 fatty acids.6 In fact, studies have shown that its absorption and antioxidant capabilities are superior to fish oils.7, 8 In addition, krill oil has been clinically proven to reduce heart-damaging inflammation, and lower levels of bad cholesterol, known as low-density lipoprotein or LDL, and raise good cholesterol, known as high density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol, and was shown to be more effective than fish oil.9, 10

With heart disease on the rise, I encourage you all to take care of yourselves. Reduce stress by sharing your feelings, take time to laugh and make time for yourself. Eat well; skipping meals can leave you hungry, which makes you vulnerable to stress. Consume a minimum of five servings of vegetables and fruit each day, choose low-fat milk options, and avoid fast food restaurants which are loaded with fat and salt. My last tip for you is to increase your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, and one of the best sources is krill oil. It is clinically proven to have cardio protective benefits. Therefore, be smart and take care of your heart because you only have one.


  1. World Health Organization. 2012. Retrieved from Statistics Canada. Morality, Summary List of Causes 2008. Released October 18, 2011.
  2. Conference Board of Canada. The Canadian Heart Health Strategy: Risk Factors and Future Cost Implications. Report February 2010.
  3. Tracking Heart Disease and Stroke in Canada. Released June 2009.
  4. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Getting Active for Life. 2007.
  5. Krill oil. monograph. (2010). Alternative Medicine Review : A Journal of Clinical Therapeutic, 15(1), 84.
  6. Goustard-Langelier B, Guesnet P, Durand G, et al. n-3 and n-6 fatty acid enrichment by dietary fish oil and phospholipid sources in brain cortical areas and nonneural tissues of formula fed piglets. Lipids 1999;34:5-16.
  7. Naguib YM. Antioxidant activities of astaxanthin and related carotenoids. J Agric Food Chem 2000;48:1150-1154.
  8. Deutsch, L. (2007). Evaluation of the effect of neptune krill oil on chronic inflammation and arthritic symptoms. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 26(1), 39.
  9. Bunea R, El Farrah K, Deutsch L. Evaluation of the effects of Neptune Krill Oil on the clinical course of hyperlipidemia. Altern Med Rev 2004:9:420-428.