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NEWS RELEASE · 13th February 2011
Ministry of Health Services
When most of us think of Valentine's Day we think of hearts. This year, think about showing your heart some love by considering some simple ways to ensure you are heart healthy.

February is Heart Month, which provides a great opportunity to raise awareness of the risk factors for heart disease and to recognize B.C.'s role as a leader in cardiac care and treatment.

"Each year, more than 6,500 British Columbians die of cardiovascular disease, the second-leading cause of death in the province," said Parliamentary Secretary for Health Promotion Terry Lake. "In many cases, cardiovascular disease is preventable through healthy diet and lifestyle choices."

Cardiovascular disease is a common term used for a number of medical conditions that affect the heart and/or blood vessels. Examples include hardening of the arteries, coronary heart disease, heart failure and an irregular heartbeat.

Risks for developing cardiovascular disease include: smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity, as well as risk factors that we cannot control such as age, gender, ethnicity and family history.

Three lifestyle changes that can help reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease are:

*Smoking Cessation: Smoking is linked to virtually all the major causes of death and disease in Canada - and quitting smoking is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke.

QuitNow
Services provide 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week advice and support for British Columbians who want help in quitting smoking. QuitNow can be reached toll-free at 1 877 455-2233 or online at www.quitnow.ca for moreinformation on their programs, including a new, free 14-week mobile texting service.

* Physical Activity: Being physically active is an excellent way to improve your heart health. Children and youth should be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day, while adults should be active for at least 150 minutes per week. If all of these minutes are too much at one time, break it into segments of 10-15 minutes. Remember, getting out and doing some activity is better than doing none at all.

* Healthy Eating: A diet high in fruits, vegetables and fibres and low in saturated fat, trans-fat and cholesterol can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Limiting sodium intake to less than one teaspoon is another factor, as 30 per cent of high blood pressure is linked to a high-sodium diet.
The Province is also committed to supporting British Columbians in every region of the province in providing state-of-the-art cardiac care to thousands of patients. Successes include:

* A 10 per cent increase in the number of open heart surgeries performed and a 58 per cent increase in angioplasties since 2001.

* Wait times for cardiac surgery, have dropped more than 70 per cent to under four weeks, down from 15.1 weeks in 2001/02.

* The expansion of heart procedures and surgeries to include the $448.2-million Interior Heart and Surgical Centre at Kelowna General Hospital. Bringing cardiac services to Kelowna is helping to support the almost 1,600 patients per year in this region who previously had to travel for their care.

* More than 800 patients with the most severe type of heart attacks caused by a completely blocked artery have received care straight out of the ambulance through the ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction program. The program began as a partnership between Vancouver Coastal Health, Providence Health Care and the BC Ambulance Service and has now expanded to Fraser Health. The Province is working with the Provincial Health Services Authority to develop a province wide program.

* The Canadian Institute for Health Information's "Health Indicators 2010" report showed that B.C. has the lowest heart attack rate per capita in the country. The report concluded that if all provinces had the same heart attack rate as B.C., there would be a potential decline of 22 per cent in the national heart attack rate.

* A made-in B.C. surgical technique developed by St. Paul's Hospital doctors to replace worn-out artificial heart valves without major surgery was recently lauded as "one of the most exciting events in cardiology in the last 50 years," by the American Heart Association. Over 350 of these procedures have been completed in B.C. since 2005. The St. Paul's Hospital team has also trained over 50 other programs around the world, with over 10,000 procedures now done worldwide.