This month’s public health achievement – the decline in deaths from coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke (a.k.a., cardiovascular disease [CVD]) – is one that hits close to home for me. My maternal grandfather died of a heart attack and both my paternal grandparents have had heart attacks as well. My mom is on meds for high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes (all risk factors for heart attack). My dad hasn’t been tested, but I’d be willing to bet that he has all of that too. With all this heart disease on both sides of my family, I’m at high risk for getting it, so anything I can do to mitigate that risk, I’m all for it!
Some random interesting things about the decline of CHD and stroke:
- Deaths from CVD have been dropping since the mid-1960s. Between 1994 and 2004, it fell by 30%. This decrease is likely due to a number of things, including:
- prevention efforts (e.g., decreased rates of smoking)
- better diagnosis and treatment of hypertension and high blood lipids
- Even with this decline, we still have a lot of CVD – ~1.6 million people have heart disease or have had a stroke. And with increasing rates of obesity and diabetes, we may very well see CVD rates start to increase again.
- 1942 – Canada introduces its first food guide (called the Official Food Rules), which had to take into account wartime rationing while also trying to promote the health of Canadians. The food guide has been updated several times since then, most recently into its current iteration in 2007.
- 1971 – ParticipACTION was introduced (remember ParticipACTION?) to get people active.
- 1986 – “Achieving Health for All: A Framework for Health Promotion,” a federal report, make “health promotion […] the guiding principle behind the further development of public health in Canada.” Also in that year, the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion was released at the first International Conference on Health Promotion.
- 2007 – Nutrition Fact labels become mandatory.
Things You Can Do:
- Be physically active for 30-60 minutes per day. Physical activity can take many forms, whether it’s going for a walk and talking the stairs instead of riding elevators, or playing sports. And you don’t have to do 3o minutes at once – 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there will have positive health affects.
- Eat well. There’s lots and lots of “rules” for eating well, but it mainly comes down to: eat a variety of real foods – the less processed the better!
- Maintain a healthy weight (which eating well and being active will help with).
- Don’t smoke.
- Know what your blood pressure, blood lipid and blood glucose levels are. You can’t feel it when you have high blood pressure or high levels of lipids or glucose in your blood, but they can all be really damaging, so it’s important to catch these things early!
In addition to things you can do individually, we should also be concerned about policy issues – like regulations on things like trans fats and sodium and tobacco, access to healthy foods for all people, and making our environments more conducive to physical activity.