The statistics are startling.
One in three Canadian women die of heart disease and stroke, making it the leading cause of death in women.
Most women aren't aware they have a problem or that they can reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 80 per cent by making simple lifestyle changes.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation's Heart Truth campaign educates women on how to identify risk factors and warning signs of heart disease and stroke.
As part of this initiative, the foundation has launched its Heartbeats on-line initiative.
Heartbeats will provide women living in small communities as well as those residing in urban areas with weekly lifestyle tips via text message, email, or RSS feed.
The tips are incremental and achievable for women of all health and fitness levels.
As each lifestyle change is incorporated, women will see their health and energy levels improve over the year, says Jodine (Gill) Kean, director of health promotion with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.
"The tips are small suggestions but at the end of the year you'll have huge gains in becoming heart healthy," Kean says.
Women today lead very busy lives, she adds. This might explain why they are not concentrating on their own health.
While heart healthy lifestyle changes are not complicated, Kean says, it takes encouragement and discipline to turn intentions into habit.
Heartbeats helps women take small steps that add up to big gains.
Because heart disease and stroke share many of the same root causes, many prevention efforts give women additional health benefits by protecting them against both heart disease and stroke, Kean says.
According to Kean, Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest incidence of heart disease and stroke, in both men and women, in the country.
"Part of this is because of our risk factors. Newfoundlanders consume the most sodium which affects our hypertension, plus our fat content is really high," she says.
Lifestyle changes that will be encouraged through the Heartbeats initiative include smoking cessation, regular exercise, and healthy eating.
According to the foundation, following a low-fat diet, lowering salt intake and eating at least five servings of vegetables and fruit per day will put women on the right track to heart health.
"The tips will also include information on blood pressure and cholesterol because we know there are many women out there who have never had their blood pressure checked or their cholesterol level taken," Kean says.
Eating a diet low in saturated and trans fats is important, Kean notes, as consuming too much saturated fat may increase the bad LDL cholesterol and lower the good HDL cholesterol, which can increase the risk of high blood pressure, narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart attack and stroke.
The foundation estimates that high blood pressure affects one in five Canadians.
Monitoring and controlling blood pressure can reduce risk of stroke by up to 40 per cent, risk of heart disease by 50 per cent and risk of heart failure by up to 25 per cent.
First hand knowledge
Originally from Labrador City, Kean grew up in Mount Pearl and lived in Calgary for over a decade.
She is concerned about heart disease and stroke both personally and professionally.
Both her parents, who are from Bonavista Bay, live with heart problems. Therefore, she knows first-hand how important it is to be aware of the risk for heart disease and stroke.
"My dad had his first heart attack in his forties so I'm not going to let that happen to me. I'm only 37 but I'm on medication because I have a genetic disposition to high cholesterol. I've had it since I was 16," she says.
As an incentive to encourage women to go on-line and sign up for Heartbeats, those who do so before March 2, 2009 will have their names entered in the Heart of Fashion contest.
"They can win a return flight for two to Toronto, two nights at a luxury hotel, spending money and two VP tickets to the celebrity-studded, Heart Truth Fashion Show during L'Oreal Fashion Week in March 2009," Kean says.
While there will be women who don't have a computer in their homes, many libraries and other community-based facilities offer access to the Internet.
However, if there are women concerned about their heart health who do not have access to a computer, Kean says they are certainly welcome to call her for advice and guidance.
"I can send them tips and do things for them, presentations if they'd like. So they are still getting the heart truth but just in a different way."
Jodine Kean can be reached at 1-888-473-4636, extension 22.
To register for Heartbeats visit www.thehearttruth.ca
One in three Canadian women die of heart disease
Jodine Kean, director of health promotion with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. Danette Dooley photo
Foundation's Heart Truth shows women how to identify risks and signs
The statistics are startling.
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