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February is Heart Month!

February is many things. It is Black History Month, it is the month of Valentine’s Day and groundhog day, and sometimes it’s a leap month but it is also Heart Month!

Heart month brings awareness to the importance of cardiovascular health and how we can reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease.

What is cardiovascular disease?

It has a few names – coronary heart disease, ischemic heart disease or just simply heart disease. When someone has heart disease, their heart muscle is damaged or does not work properly. Fat, cholesterol, calcium and other things can build up in the arteries of the heart and create ‘plaque’. The arteries of the heart supply the heart itself with blood to fuel the muscles of the heart to beat. When plaque builds up and hardens in these arteries, the arteries become narrow and blood is not able to flow as it should- this can cause chest pain called angina.

A heart attack happens when the plaque ruptures and forms a blood clot and blocks the flow of blood to the heart. In a similar way, a stroke can happen when the blood flow to the brain is interrupted.

If heart disease goes untreated, it can eventually lead to heart failure. Heart failure happens if the heart is not able to pump enough blood throughout the body.

What are the stats?

In 2012, heart disease was the second leading cause of death in Canada. Cancer was the first.

1 in 12 Canadians aged 20 and over were living with heart disease in 2012.

Our heart is a very important organ in our body! We, quite literally, would not be able to live without it. If our heart can’t pump our blood around our body efficiently, the rest of the body suffers from that! Let’s take good care of our hearts!

First thing to look at is risk factors. If you have or participate in any of these, you will have a higher risk of developing heart disease. Risk factors are things that have been shown to be linked to certain diseases. The risk factors for heart disease are:

- High cholesterol

- Smoking

- High blood pressure

- Diabetes

- Abdominal obesity

- Lack of regular physical activity

- Unhealthy diet

- Excessive alcohol consumption

Luckily, many of these risk factors can be managed or decreased with lifestyle! Changing your diet to be healthier can affect your diabetes, fat stores in the body, and cholesterol levels. Increasing your physical activity can decrease your blood pressure, help manage your diabetes, decrease fat stores, exercise has also been used as a smoking cessation tool!

As a Kinesiologist, my focus is on the exercise portion!

So what are the exercise recommendations?

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommends 150min of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise per week and muscle strengthening to major muscle groups 2 times a week.

A great and easy way to know what intensity you are working at is the ‘TALK TEST’. If you are able to talk but not sing during your activity, then are you working at a moderate intensity. If you are only able to get out a few words before having to pause and take a breath, then you are working at a vigorous intensity.

150minutes a week works out to be about 20minutes per day.

I’m sure many of you have heard of cardio exercise but what does that really mean? Cardio exercise, cardiovascular exercise, aerobic exercise. This type of activity uses your heart and lungs for a long period of time. Aerobic means ‘relating to, involving or requiring free oxygen’, which means that oxygen is used to meet the energy demands of the exercise.

More than half of Canadians are physically inactive! Making this the highest modifiable risk factor for not just heart disease but other chronic diseases as well!

Benefits to cardio exercise stretch beyond strengthening the heart! Here are other benefits!

- Strengthens the muscles involved with breathing

- Strengthens the heart muscle – improves pumping efficiency and reduces heart rate

- Improved circulation and blood pressure

- Improved oxygen transport by increasing red blood cells

- Improved mental health and cognitive function

- Reduces risk of diabetes

- Reduces risk of death from cardiovascular problems

- High impact aerobic activities can stimulate bone growth and decrease risk of osteoporosis

- Increased storage of energy molecules for increased endurance

Those sound great eh??

Let’s get started!! So running right? That’s how we do cardio right?

Answer: not necessarily! If you like to run or jog, then be my guest! Jogging or running are great ways to incorporate aerobic exercise to your life but it’s not the only way.

There are 2 basic categories of cardiovascular training:

1- High intensity training (HIT) – this is a shorter duration with high intensity

2- Slow long distance – longer duration with lower intensity

Running would be a slow long distance type of cardio exercise. Where something like interval training would be high intensity training. Or something like skipping. You can make it a HIT exercise with speed skipping 2min with 1min break and repeat. If you skip at a leisurely pace for 30-45min then that would be a slow long distance type of exercise.

There are benefits to both types and it is recommended to incorporate both into your program.

Here are some more examples of aerobic activities:

- Stair climbing

- step class

- elliptical trainer

- indoor rower

- stairmaster

- stationary bike

- treadmill

- Jacob’s ladder

- Arc trainer

- Squash

- Walking

- outdoor biking

- running

- cross country skiing

- urban poling

- hiking

- inline skating

- swimming

- kickboxing

- skipping

- circuit training

- jumping jacks

- AquaFit / water aerobics

- Jazzercise

- Dancing

- Many sports

- And so much more!!!

There are many fun and interesting ways to get active and get those 150minutes of exercise in a week!

How will you get your minutes in?

Are you wanting to be more active but don’t know how to start or want or need some guidance? Your friendly neighbourhood Kinesiologist is here to help! Book your complimentary Discovery Call here to get started!


Carrie Doll Kinesiology offers in-home active therapy. Service area includes Kitchener, Waterloo, St. Jacobs, Conestogo, Elmira and area.

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