So I was thinking about possible blog topics and I got thinking about primary prevention (which is always a pretty hot topic in health care). “Would that be an interesting blog topic?” I asked myself.
You always hear about how the best cure is to prevent the disease in the first place. What is involved with stroke prevention? Eat right and exercise – that about covers it right? And I don’t really have to worry about strokes anyway; I’m only 28, right? Then I started thinking about the average age of people having strokes these days. We are starting to see younger and younger individuals affected by stroke as well as a myriad of other nasty diseases and conditions. I also thought of all my relatives who have diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc. I most definitely have some unhealthy family members!
All of these factors made me realize that maybe (just maybe) it may never be too early to start thinking about primary prevention.
So, I made a resolution, I am going to spend the next 6 months making an evidence based attempt at making primary prevention a major life goal. I’m going to focus on primary prevention of stroke as well as diabetes, heart disease and anything else I come across. I will record my progress and investigations on this blog so that others may benefit from my experiences.
So, where to start….let’s look at some Canadian statistics. I want to know if there truly is a trend toward disease or if the media just wants me to think that “the sky is falling”. Let’s head over to Statistics Canada and maybe the Health and Stroke Foundation website while I’m at it.
http://www.statcan.gc.ca/start-debut-eng.html I found this great PDF entitled “The Changing Face of Heart Disease and Stroke” http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82f0076x/82f0076x1997001-eng.pdf
Cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) is the leading cause of death of over one-third of Canadians. It not only affects the elderly but is also the third leading cause of premature death under age 75. Mortality rates for ischemic heart disease and acute myocardial infarction continue to decrease, but mortality rates for stroke have not changed significantly during the past ten years.
The Canada Heart Health surveys from 1985-90 found that 41% of men and 33% of women aged 18 to 74 had two or more of the major risk factors (smoking, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, physical inactivity, or obesity). The risk of heart disease and stroke increases with an increased number of risk factors.
Age 18 – 74! That’s quite a range! Ok, so now I know that you DO NOT need to be “old” to be at risk for stroke. Nor should you wait until you’re older to think about prevention. That being said, what are the risk factors?
Here are a few:
High blood pressure
Excessive alcohol use
High cholesterol levels
Oxidant diet/Antioxidant use
Exertion in the cold/Snow shoveling
Infections and inflammatory agents
Take a look at this list. The majority of the risk factors on there are completely preventable.
“Ok” I say to myself “Great, this disease is totally preventable and I managed to find all this out in about half an hour with Google”. I feel that if I can get all this via Google in a short time period then the average Canadian should be able to do it too.
Now I think the next step should be to figure out how many (and which) risk factors I have. To do this, I found a really cool risk assessment tool on the Heart and Stroke Foundation website. Go check it out here:
Ok, risk assessment complete! It turns out that I have more than 3 risk factors for stroke (yikes). Then I stumbled across this little tidbit:
Ask your doctor about having your cholesterol tested if you:
Are a male over 40
Are a female over 50 and/or post-menopausal
Have heart disease or stroke, diabetes or high blood pressure
Have a waist measurement of more than 1-2 cm (40 inches) for men or over 88 cm (35 inches) for women
Have a family history of heart disease or stroke
So….stay tuned for my next blogpost:
Visiting my physician: Blood Work and Blood Pressure (coming soon)