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Teens and Adults Both at Risk for Heart Disease

heart disease

The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation has warned the public of an impending “perfect storm” where young adults are now being diagnosed with heart disease. Coupled with the increasing number of baby boomers already suffering with heart disease, the so-called “storm” will continue to place an increased strain on an already bloated healthcare budget.

Currently, provincial governments spend approximately 30% of taxpayer’s money on sick care. With more and more young adults being diagnosed with heart disease, that number is expected to rise to 50% within the next decade. In the meantime, Canada already spends close to $22 billion annually on heart disease and stroke.

How can we fix this problem? As usual, politicians will call for more tax money, the medical profession will call for better drugs and the public will continue to hope that someone will jut “fix” them when they get sick.

Of course, no one will be talking about prevention. Sure, someone will suggest more tests and early detection as a solution however; medical tests can only tell you when you’re already sick and early detection is not prevention.

Everyone in healthcare knows that most heart disease is preventable with simple lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, not smoking, drinking less etc. We know that prevention is the key eliminating much of the sick care costs, yet there will be no mention of the drastic lifestyle changes which are truly required to prevent disease and illness.

Never mind the fact that the documented benefits of alternative healthcare systems will continue to be ignored by policy makers. For example, research has shown that people under regular chiropractic care reduce health care spending and medical visits by 31%. They take fewer medications and they have less sick days but you won’t hear anyone telling you to see your chiropractor, naturopath, massage therapist etc…

While policy makers are arguing over how to pay for this problem, I would suggest you take your health into your own hands: Learn to eat well, exercise everyday, manage your stress and take care of your body. If you don’t know how, consult an expert who can set you in the right direction. Yes it will be hard to change at first, however, the more you invest in your health and prevention now, the greater the returns later.

Want to Live to 100? Follow these simple steps.

UnknownWhenever I would suggest that my patients develop a plan to live to 100 and beyond, it would usually elicit groans, complaints and sometime panic. After all, who wants to live to be 100 years old, sick, on tons of medications, and unable to live life to its fullest?

Fortunately, there is good news for those pessimists out there: New research is showing that living to 100 may be easier than you think.

Currently, we have a generation of baby boomers that have watched many of their parents’ retirement years be stolen away by chronic disease and physical injury. Their impression of growing old is one of suffering and disability.

For the most part, this has been true. Over 80% of the population will die of either heart disease or cancer. The average Canadian currently fills 14 prescriptions every year, while the average senior will fill even more than that. If you look around, you’ll see Canadians are living longer, but they are not healthier.

The secret to longevity involves a complex dance between lifestyle, environment, social structure and genetics. While many of the recent studies on centenarians -people that live to 100 and beyond – have focused on genetic factors, they have also revealed certain common traits among the longest lived people in the world.

One interesting fact is that they tend not to get sick as often and when they do they tend to recover very quickly. Also, they do not seem to suffer from the same lifestyle-related illnesses that plague modern society such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia.

There are several common lifestyle factors among these centenarians. For the most part the did not smoke, they drank moderately, their diets were high in vegetable content, they had positive social influences, low stress and they were still active later on in life.

Researchers have also identified certain gene mutations that can predict longevity with some accuracy; however, it remains unclear whether these genetic mutations were hardwired at birth or epigenetic changes that occur as a result of those very same healthy lifestyle practices.

Here’s what the centenarians did to build incredible health and longevity:

Have a plan – Most centenarians had a daily routine for their diet, exercise and social activities. Surprisingly, they also regularly set goals for the future.

Eat real food – Centenarians rarely ate processed foods and consumed copious amounts of green, leafy vegetables, colorful fruits, good fats and lean healthy meats, especially oily fish.

Move – Any kind of exercise was better than none. Daily walking or other low impact activities combined with some resistance training (lifting weights) seemed to have the biggest impact on longevity.

Play – Staying mentally active whether through reading, learning new activities, puzzles, or even working beyond retirement, were also predictors of longevity.

Sleep – People that sleep 8 hours or more a night live longer and are less likely to develop heart disease and other illnesses.

The bottom line is, lifestyle plays a dominant role in living to 100 and beyond.



Ancient Mummies Had Heart Disease

Mummy!-SLWhat do ancient mummies and heart disease have in common? Apparently quite a bit, according to media reports this week.

A recent study found that much like modern day humans, our ancestors also suffered from calcification of the arteries, commonly known as plaque or atherosclerosis.

The study results were announced Sunday in the medical journal Lancet.

Scientists performed x-ray and CT scans of 137 mummies found in Egypt, Peru, the Arctic and the southwest US. The results showed that even 4000 years ago, our ancestors suffered from the same calcification of the arteries.

This has led some in the media to conclude that strokes and heart attacks may have been just as prevalent in the ancient world as they are today.

“I think it’s fair to say people should feel less guilty about getting heart disease in modern times,” said Dr. Randall Thompson, the lead author of the study, “We may have oversold the idea that a healthy lifestyle can completely eliminate your risk.”

However, there are some that have questioned the logic of his conclusion.

Aside from the fact that there have been numerous studies over the years, which have definitively shown a link between poor lifestyle and heart disease, Dr. Stephan Guyenet, a neurobiologist, points out one other glaring problem with Dr. Thompson’s conclusion:

“Although arterial calcification was common in all cultures represented by the mummies, it was less common in the coronary arteries, where it matters most for heart attack risk.”  

Apparently, only 4% of the mummies studied showed any significant calcification of the arteries going to the heart and in fact, some were mummified without their hearts attached! Consequently, it’s impossible to know the true health status of these ancient mummies.

While the new mummy data may not change much, the findings are interesting and they do add to what we already know about atherosclerosis.

Although atherosclerosis is a normal part of aging, lifestyle factors such as poor diet and lack of exercise are the main factors that have been shown to increase the severity of this problem and increase the risk of heart disease.