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Our hearts need our help

Posted Feb 22nd, 2024

This is an opinion column by Dr. Adnan Hameed, Cardiology Head of Service for Niagara Health, published in the St. Catharines StandardNiagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune.

Dr. Adnan Hameed

Our hearts sustain us with every beat, pumping blood and oxygen through our bodies.

This February, as we navigate the rhythms of life and celebrate Heart Month, I wanted to share a message about safeguarding your well-being by taking care of your heart.

Niagara Health and its partners are always working to deliver the best quality heart health care to keep the citizens of Niagara in tip-top shape. We are fortunate to have access to many cutting-edge services, including cardiac angiograms, pacemakers, a coronary care unit and a rehabilitation program, to name just a few.

Combined with the best nurses, support staff and cardiologists, there's an incredible team in Niagara ready to help.

However, these alone are only one piece of the heart health puzzle.

Each of us also has to do our part to adopt the best lifestyle choices to ensure a solid foundation for our heart health.

Here are five ways to improve and maintain heart health:

Get active

We've heard it a thousand times: Exercise is important. It is a common adage because it's true and it's especially true for your heart. So, try to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.

Here in Niagara, we are blessed with many options to enhance our physical fitness and well-being, whether we opt for a leisurely stroll along the Niagara Parkway or an invigorating hike along the escarpment.

Manage stress

Stress is a part of most of our lives and can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health, including heart heath. That's why it is important to prioritize stress management as part of a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Try some simple strategies like mindfulness and deep breathing to help alleviate stress and strain on your heart.

Eat healthy

What we put in our mouths has a direct impact on our heart health. Reducing consumption of processed foods, excess sugars and unhealthy fats will help keep your heart and all the blood vessels and veins that help it work healthy.

Get enough Zzzs

Sleep is great for rest and relaxation, but it's also important to maintain overall health and well-being. Our hearts also need sleep. Getting enough Zzzs gives our hearts rest and helps lower blood pressure.

Don't smoke, alcohol in moderation

Smoking is one of the most unhealthy heart habits, so quitting is one of the top things you can do to take care of your ticker. Quitting can lower your blood pressure and increase heart health.

Drinking alcohol is another habit that can be hard on your heart and should only be done in moderation.

As Niagara's population continues to grow, so do the numbers of patients seen by our cardiac specialists. Nearly 800 patients were hospitalized with a primary cardiac diagnosis in the past year, including heart attacks, heart failure and electrical problems in the heart. Niagara Health specialists performed nearly 1,500 cardiac angiograms last year. This procedure assesses for blockages in the arteries and evaluation of pressures inside the heart.

While the primary cardiac centre is St. Catharines hospital, we will see an expansion of our cardiac program with the opening of the south Niagara hospital in 2028. In addition to a heart function clinic, the new hospital will offer a number of cardiac tests and strengthen collaboration across Niagara Health. The expansion of cardiology into the new hospital will help to ensure that we are meeting patient needs and providing the best care possible, regardless of what hospital residents of Niagara visit.

As residents of Niagara, let us cherish our hearts and recognize how our choices today shape the vitality of our tomorrow.

Niagara Health System