Heart Disease

Heart disease describes a range of conditions that affect your heart. Heart diseases include:

  • Blood vessel disease, such as coronary artery disease
  • Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias)
  • Heart defects you’re born with (congenital heart defects)
  • Heart valve disease
  • Disease of the heart muscle
  • Heart infection

Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices.

Victoria Middleton

Victoria Middleton

Registered Dietitian
New York City, NY
Yumna Khan

Yumna Khan

Registered Dietitian
Burlington, ON
Margarita deGraaf

Margarita deGraaf

Registered Dietitian
Burlington, ON

Dr. Graham Wong, Cardiologist, MD, MPH, FRCPC, FACC, discusses What You Can Do To Help Prevent Heart Disease

Quiz: Do You Understand Heart Disease?

Test your knowledge by answering the following questions:


Coronery artery disease can lead to a heart attack.

As plaque builds up it narrows your coronary arteries, decreasing blood flow to your heart. This decreased blood flow can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations and sweating. A complete blockage can lead to a heart attack.

Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease.

A high-sodium diet can lead to high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Limiting sodium is a key part of a heart-healthy diet. Skip the table salt, limit processed and canned foods and opt for low-sodium condiments.

There is no link between heart disease and mental health.

Research shows that people with long-term depression, anxiety or stress can experience physiologic effects on the heart. These may include increased levels of cortisol, increased heart rate and blood pressure and decreased blood flow to the heart. Long-term physiological effects can result in heart disease and metabolic disease.

Beta blockers aren't a treatment for heart disease.

Treatment for heart disease depends on your condition, and may include antiplatelet drugs, anticoagulants, beta blockers, nitrates, calcium channel blockers and others.

Exercising 30 minutes a day five days a week can improve your heart health and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day five days a week has been found to be beneficial to heart health. Exercise can help keep blood vessels open, increase HDL ("good") cholesterol levels, reduce LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels and boost the heart’s ability to pump blood.
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Dr. Milan Gupta, MD, FRCPC, Cardiologist, discusses the role of ethnicity in cardiovascular disease.

What You Can Do To Help Prevent Heart Disease

So in addition to medications, a critical aspect of treating patients after a heart attack is changes towards a more healthy lifestyle.

And what healthy lifestyle choices do is both a direct effect on the heart, as well as an indirect effect to the heart. A very large trial demonstrated that 90 percent of all heart attacks can be predicted by nine modifiable risk factors, which can be positively influenced by changes in one’s lifestyle.

These would include smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, fruit and vegetable intake or lack thereof, truncal obesity, physical inactivity, high levels of psychosocial stress and lack of moderate alcohol intake. These particular risk factors can all be modified with healthier lifestyle choices, including diet, exercise and appropriate structure reduction techniques.

And they are complementary, and extremely important to any medication that your physician or other health care provider will give to you following a heart attack.

Presenter: Dr. Graham Wong, Cardiologist, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Cardiologist

Nicole Gorman, MN-NP(F), CCN(C), Nurse Practitioner, discusses how patients diagnosed with atrial fibrillation can take control of their condition through healthy living, diet and exercise

Activity Plan for Heart Failure Patients

So there’s several things that you can do to help live a healthier life with heart failure.

So number one is you can start watching the salt in your diet. So it’s really important to know how to read labels. So talking to a dietitian is really important.

We recommend that you have a diet of less than 2,000 milligrams of salt a day. That’s a really low sodium diet. Most of us have between four and five thousand milligrams of sodium in our diet.

So what’s interesting is that, you know, most people are concerned about the salt shaker on the table and that’s not actually the biggest source of sodium. Over 70 percent of it is found hidden in processed foods.

So we recommend for heart failure patients that they follow a diet of less than 2,000 milligrams a day. It prevents the fluid retention and that is, you know, when you have too much salt in the diet, you have fluid that builds up in your feet, your legs, and your belly. Sometimes it gets into the lungs and it makes it difficult to breathe.

Being active is a really important part of caring for yourself as a heart failure patient. First of all, it makes you feel better mentally, feel better physically, you sleep better, you’re less breathless. All those are really important when it comes to caring for yourself as a health failure patient.

It’s important that you talk to your family physician about an activity plan suited for you. We really encourage you to connect with your local cardiac rehab program as they can provide an exercise prescription that will help you live well with heart failure.

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