Letnick: Protect your heart all year long

I reached my big goal because I set small, achieveable ones along the way…

Heart disease doesn’t run in my family, but 14 months ago I looked in the mirror and made a troubling realization. I found my midsection was expanding, my belt size was increasing, my stamina was decreasing, and my weight had gone from 145 pounds in my 20s to 160 pounds.

‘Not a good recipe for a long and healthy life,’ I thought. And I knew that no diet would be a ‘quick fix’ for a problem that slowly creeped up over 25 years, and was especially tough to tackle given my busy, high-stress job.

That’s when I found myfitnesspal. It’s an app for my phone and computer which helps me keep track of what I eat and the exercise I get. It took six months, but I hit my goal weight of 145 pounds and have been holding steady ever since. My belt size is back down, my stamina is up, I feel great in my skin, and grudgingly–I had to buy some new clothes (I’m not a shopper!).

I also reached my big goal because I set small, achieveable ones along the way—and took a ‘no excuses’ approach. Last summer, I spent nearly a month behind the wheel as I completed an extensive farm tour in my capacity as Agriculture Minister. With 6,000 kilometres of road in front of me, it would have been easy to say, ‘it’s too hard to exercise on this schedule. I’ll just wait until the tour’s over to start my weight loss journey.’

Instead, I thought about the small ways I could sneak in a little bit of exercise and trim my calories. Tummy rotations and contractions every 30 minutes as I drove? Sure! Not indulging in the treats made from delicious farm products like fresh cream and butter? Now that was a bit tougher—but enjoying that B.C. bounty in moderation, rather than indulging completely, sure made a difference.

I’m not special. You too can achieve the results you want, but it will take a decision on your part to make the first move and reduce the chances of being another heart disease statistic.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation says there is one sudden cardiac arrest every four hours, and that more than 2000 British Columbians die from sudden cardiac arrest each year.

Some of the risk factors are things we can’t control—our age and family history, for example. But we can control things like our nutrition and physical activity, which contribute greatly to our overall well-being and stave off a variety of illnesses.

February is the Foundation’s ‘Heart Month,’ a campaign that supports life-saving research and raises awareness of heart disease and stroke in communities across Canada. You may encounter some of their local volunteers throughout this month, canvassing for donations and sharing information on how to prevent and treat heart disease and stroke. I encourage you to listen to what they have to say.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death among adults in B.C. – this could be someone’s father, mother, spouse, child or friend. Let’s all work to improve our heart health, one small step at a time!