Thomson: Take responsibility for managing your good heart health

There are lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk of heart disease.

Heart diseases and stroke take one life every seven minutes. Even more staggering is that 90 per cent of us have at least one risk factor, making it even more important to make decisions in our daily lives that will keep our heart healthy.

February is Heart Month, when the Heart and Stroke Foundation and more than 100,000 volunteers fundraise for live-saving research and heart health awareness across the country. I would encourage you to contribute in any way you can, whether that means canvassing and volunteering for a couple hours, donating, or sharing information about heart health with friends and family.

Some risk factors for heart disease and stroke aren’t within your control, like age or family history, but there are lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk. Regular exercise, working with your doctor to control your blood pressure and weight, eating a healthy diet and reducing stress will all help to keep your heart healthy.

Quitting smoking will not only help improve your heart health, but also your overall health. Within a year of quitting, the risk of dying from smoking-related heart disease is cut in half. Within 10 years, the risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half. Most smokers know these risks, but it can be very difficult to quit, and our government wants to help.

Any B.C. resident who has active Medical Services Plan coverage can enroll in our B.C. Smoking Cessation Program, which covers 100 per cent of the cost of prescription smoking cessation drugs or nicotine replacement therapy products, like gum or patches, for up to 12 continuous weeks. For more information and details about this program, visit the Ministry of Health’s webpage at, or phone 811.

My colleague MLA Norm Letnick and I participated in a great event in December with the Advanced Coronary Treatment Foundation to celebrate a program that has trained students from five Okanagan high schools in CPR and using a defibrillator. The skills and knowledge these students have gained could be the difference between life and death in a medical emergency.

Education is one of the greatest tools we have to improve heart health and save lives in our community, and this month is the time to take a look at the resources available to you. Talk to your doctor, visit the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s website at, and look for ways to improve your heart health through manageable changes to your daily habits.