A heart attack transformed how this Canadian lives for his family
When faced with a life-altering event, many people will take that time to reevaluate their lives and refocus their priorities. And that is exactly what Iain did after having a heart attack.
After raising his four children, Iain has stepped back into the role of father for his two granddaughters. “One of my daughter’s is deaf and later on she started struggling with some addiction issues. She ended up having a baby that she couldn’t care for, so my wife and I took the baby in from day one. Her father passed away and then my granddaughter’s half-sister came to live with us as well,” Iain shares.
And while this may not have been how Iain pictured living out his 60s, he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I can’t explain the joy I get from it.” But he also recognizes that raising kids in your 20s versus your 60s looks very different.
“They say having kids around keeps you young but it’s not true,” laughs Iain. “When your knees don’t bend as well and you have to sit down for a tea party for hours on end, oh my goodness!”
When the unexpected happens
“I had a heart attack, and I didn’t know about it until two days later. It wasn’t pain, it was a different feeling.”
When Iain found himself at the hospital, he had every intention of leaving the appointment and heading to work for the day. But his focus shifted when the doctor explained that Iain had experienced a heart attack and would be going in for surgery immediately.
“That’s when I started to be more concerned about my health and being around for my girls than I was about being concerned about my work.”
Iain is still working on living a healthy life and making choices that support his health and family. “It’s really important to me that I be healthy and be around for my girls. I want to see them through high school. I’d love to see them at their weddings. I want to see them become independent. And I want to be a good example for them health-wise.”
Heart disease by the numbers
Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada—it affects tens of thousands of Canadians every year.
- More than one-fifth of Canadians in 2020 died due to heart disease.
- As of 2022, 2.4 million Canadians have heart disease.
- 90% of Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease.
- One person dies in Canada every five minutes from heart conditions, stroke, or vascular cognitive impairment.
- Almost 80% of premature heart disease can be prevented through healthy behaviours.
Six lifestyle factors that can lower your risk of developing heart disease
After Iain’s heart attack, he began improving his overall health. Making changes to your habits and behaviours now can have a positive impact on your risk of developing heart disease. These changes can help you progress from a heart attack or heart disease.
Lifestyle risk factors are the perfect place to start—by addressing these six factors, you can lower your risk of developing heart disease.
If you have a diet full of processed foods and refined sugars, consider swapping some food choices for healthier options. Start packing your plate with fruit and vegetables. Fresh, frozen, or canned, eating a variety of vegetables and fruits can lower your risk of heart disease. Heart and Stroke Canada recommends getting 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Once you’ve added fruit and veggies to your plate, you’ll want to add whole-grain foods. Whole grains are high in fibre and can help lower your heart disease risk. Next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up some quinoa, whole grain pasta, whole grain bread, whole oatmeal, or whole grain rice or wild rice to add more whole grains to your diet.
Finally, add lean and plant-based protein to your diet. There are lots of options when it comes to finding a protein source that is healthy and that you enjoy:
- lean meats and poultry
- nuts and seeds
- fish and shellfish
- lower fat dairy products
- beans, peas, and lentils
- fortified soy beverages, tofu, soybeans, and other soy products
Your exercise habits
Exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Whether you are in peak physical condition or just starting to incorporate more physical activity into your life, you can always do something to stay active. The 24-Hour Movement Guidelines recommend that adults (18-64 years) aim for at least 150 minutes per week of aerobic physical activities. It’s also essential to reduce your sedentary time—if you work at a desk from 9-to-5, incorporate breaks where you stand up and move regularly.
If you are like 60% of Canadian adults, you struggle with your weight. Being overweight can lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and obesity can double your chance of heart disease. Thankfully, making meaningful changes in your diet and exercise are the best ways to see a positive difference in your weight.
Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to prevent heart disease. Smoking triples the risk of dying from heart disease in middle-aged women and men. But quitting tobacco immediately reduces your risk of heart attack—your body starts to recover as soon as you quit!
Heavy and binge drinking are risk factors for high blood pressure and heart disease. This is not to say that you must completely cut out wine with dinner—it’s all about drinking in moderation. If you drink, limit yourself to no more than:
- Two drinks a day most days, to a weekly maximum of 10 for women.
- Three drinks a day most days, to a weekly maximum of 15 for men.
Your stress levels
Twenty-five percent of Canadians say they are managing a high degree of stress. Stress is a risk factor for heart disease—high stress levels and prolonged stress are associated with more elevated cholesterol and blood pressure. It is essential to identify your stress and the factors that cause you to stress and then take steps to manage your stress. Read on for ten simple strategies to help you manage stress.
Making small changes to your lifestyle can have a significant impact on your overall heart health. Whether you focus on your diet or stress levels, your changes will ripple effect across your overall well-being. As Iain’s story shows us, it’s never too early—or too late—to start making your health a priority.
Please always check with a medical professional to ensure these strategies are right for you.
Other resources you may be interested in:
- Episode 1: Better than drinking from the fountain of youth (podcast)
- Episode 2: Is sleep the key to living a long life? (podcast)
- Episode 3: Can physical activity slow the decline of aging? (podcast)
- Episode 4: Aging, anxiety, and the effects of stress on the body (podcast)
- Episode 5: The power and science of building healthy habits (podcast)
- Episode 6: What does it mean to live a long, healthy life? (podcast)