Kick start your Valentine’s Day with these 5 heart smart tips to reduce your risk of heart disease

It’s February, time for that once-a-year opportunity to celebrate love with chocolate, cinnamon hearts, greeting cards and flowers, but this year, we hope you’ll also take a moment to celebrate your heart, the miraculous fist-sized organ that keeps you breathing, moving and… well, loving.

Remarkably, advances in heart health research and prevention have reduced cardiovascular disease deaths by more than 75% over the past 60 years. Yet heart disease and stroke are still the second leading cause of death in Canada today.

There is a lot you can do to reduce your risk, including:

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, maintaining five or more of these healthy behaviours is associated with an 88% reduction in your risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke. In fact, even among people with uncontrollable risk factors such as a family history of heart disease, a healthy lifestyle can delay the onset of disease by as much as 14 years.

To succeed, get the help you need, when you need it

We know these changes can be hard to implement and even harder to stick with. Just managing your blood pressure and cholesterol can be daunting challenges. But you don’t have to do it alone. Your pharmacist can help – no appointment required.

One in five Canadian adults has high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, and both the prevalence and intensity of the condition increases with age. Taking the medications your doctor prescribes—along with a healthy lifestyle—will help reduce or stop its progress.

As high blood pressure is generally a disease without symptoms, patients often forget their medication or just decide to forego it because of cost, inconvenience or side effects. While they may feel fine, uncontrolled high blood pressure may be taking a silent toll on their body, increasing their risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as putting them at risk of kidney damage, erectile dysfunction and blindness.

Your pharmacist can help you stick with the treatment plan your doctor prescribes. At Express Scripts Canada’s Active Pharmacy, for example, auto-refills by mail ensure that patients never run out of their medication. When a prescription renewal is due, they receive an auto-reminder to make an appointment to see their doctor.

In the unlikely event you experience uncomfortable side effects; your pharmacist can work with your doctor to create an alternative therapy plan.

Pharmacists are generally more accessible and less time-stressed than physicians, so they are also readily available to provide evidence-based lifestyle advice, such as how to read nutrition labels to avoid excess sodium or get your exercise when a gym membership isn’t an option.

Stay safe

If you have high blood pressure, always check with your pharmacist before taking over-the-counter medications and supplements, some of which can significantly elevate blood pressure.

Your pharmacist can suggest alternatives that are right for you.

This Valentine’s Day, remember – keeping your heart healthy is one of most loving things you can do for the people who care about you.