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Within one year of quitting, the risk of dying from smoking-related heart disease is cut in half

Heart and Stroke Foundation

The Heart and Stroke Foundation is launching Make Health Last to help motivate and support Canadians to live the lives they want in their later years. Tips and tools on how to Make Health Last can be found at makehealthlast.ca.

According to the Foundation, Canadians have the power to Make Health Last and shrink the 10-year gap between how long they live and how long they live in health by addressing five controllable behaviours that can affect heart disease and stroke risk: physical inactivity, smoking, stress, poor diet and excessive alcohol consumption. By making lifestyle changes in these areas, Canadians can change their future and gain health and quality of life in their later years.

Physical inactivity results in nearly four years of quality life lost. Everything counts, even gardening, housework or dancing with your kids or grandkids, getting off the bus or subway a stop early, taking the stairs. The recommended amount is 150 minutes of moderate- to-vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, and it can take place in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Moderate intensity activities include brisk walking or bike riding. Vigorous intensity may mean jogging or cross-country skiing.

Eating a poor diet equals nearly three years of quality life lost. By following the recommendations in Canada’s Food Guide you can be sure that you’ll meet your daily requirements for vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, which will reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Keep a food diary, eat out less, eat smaller portions, eat more vegetables and fruit, cut back on sugar-sweetened drinks.

Excessive stress can cost nearly two years or more of quality life. Identify the source of your stress and what is bothering you. Share your feelings, talk to friends, family or professionals. Be physically active, take time for yourself and take breaks to get away from it all. Laugh more and try relaxation techniques. Check out the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s brochure Coping with Stress.

Quitting smoking can add two and a half more years of quality life. Within one 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, and after 15 years, the risk of dying will be nearly that of a non-smoker. Tips to quit include considering why you smoke, list your reasons to quit, put more time between your cigarettes, set a quit date, designate smoke-free areas or seek help from your physician. Supportive resources can be found on the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s website.

Excessive drinking costs Canadians two years of quality life. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to no more than two drinks a day, to a weekly maximum of 10 for women, or three drinks a day, to a weekly maximum of 15 for men. If you drink excessively consider your triggers, alternate alcoholic drinks with water or juice, monitor intake, sip drinks and switch to non-alcoholic drinks. Click here for information about alcohol consumption guidelines.