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26
Health
T
he most recent statistics
from Stats Canada reveal that
heart disease is the second
most common cause of
death behind cancer. In the senior age
groups, it is responsible for about 20%
of all deaths. In persons over age 85, it
is the leading cause of death. Most of
us have had friends or family members
succumb to this common disease. For
this reason, we should all be aware of
the facts surrounding heart disease
including prevention and treatment
options, especially for coronary artery
disease causing a heart attack (myocar-
dial infarction), which is responsible for
the vast majority of cases.
In recent years, the incidents of heart
attack and its complications have been
reduced significantly, mainly due to
preventive measures and improved
modalities of treatment. In the past,
the significance of diet, cholesterol
levels, tobacco use, hypertension and
obesity were not fully understood.
Today, we know that blood pressure
control, cholesterol control and
lifestyle changes including avoidance
of tobacco, doing regular exercise and
weight control can greatly reduce our
chances of having a heart attack. In
addition, early medical treatment at the
first onset of symptoms has reduced
the risk of complications and sudden
death; modern medical and surgical
treatments are having a further positive
impact on this disease. Snowbirds,
away from their home and usual
medical care during the winter, should
be especially aware of symptoms, signs
and treatment options that might be
needed.
What is Coronary Artery
Disease?
Heart disease includes a number of
different conditions, but by far the most
common is coronary artery disease.
This condition involves the gradual
narrowing of the small coronary
arteries which supply blood to the
heart muscle. When one or more of
these small vessels narrows due to a
buildup of cholesterol, calcium and scar
tissue (plaque), the blood supply can
be compromised. If there is any spasm
in the vessel or a piece of the plaque
breaks off, the cardiac muscle supplied
by that vessel can be damaged.
Primary Prevention
Unlike many medical conditions, there
are a number of ways in which we
can reduce our risk of developing this
disease and its complications. Although
we can’t affect our genetic inheritance
or our age, both of which are risk
factors, there are things that we should
be doing in our daily lives that have
proven to be of benefit.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation now
recommends that adults accumulate a
minimum of 150 minutes per week of
moderate to vigorous physical activity,
in bouts of 10 minutes or longer. For
most of us, a brisk but comfortable
by Robert MacMillan MD
Snowbirds
and
Heart
Attacks
Prevention of and Treatment for
Coronary Artery Disease