We are reminded on a daily basis with the COVID-19 pandemic as to how precious good health is. While we are all consumed with wearing face masks, washing and sanitizing our hands, and being socially distanced, it is important to remind ourselves that there are other aspects of our health that we need to maintain and pay attention to.

As February approaches, we know this month is dedicated to matters of the heart for two reasons. The first is that people around the world look forward to celebrating love and friendship on February 14 for St. Valentine’s Day.

The second reason is that February is known as Heart Month. In Canada, months, as well as various weeks and days, throughout the year, are dedicated to educate, raise awareness, and help people who may someday be affected by a chronic disease or major illness.

The heart is one of the body’s most important organs (only taking a second seat to the brain). While research and prevention have come a long way, the statistics concerning heart health are still staggering. According to Heart & Stroke, one person dies in Canada every five minutes from heart conditions, stroke, or vascular cognitive impairment.

“Even though it’s a critical organ, we don’t often put much thought into heart health,” said Jody Kehler, Senior Living Specialist. “While heart disease and stroke just don’t affect seniors, studies have shown that the older you are, the higher the risk you are for heart disease.”

In terms of risks, it is believed that 90 per cent of people in Canada have at least one risk factor for heart conditions, stroke, or vascular cognitive impairment. Some risks, such as poor diet, smoking, lack of exercise, unhealthy weight, and excessive alcohol consumption are preventable. Other risks such as diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and hypertension (high blood pressure) are medically based and less preventable.

“That’s why we need to focus on what is preventable. Regardless of age, it is never too late to motivate yourself to make lifestyle changes that will have a positive impact on your health.” said Kehler.

While activities have been at a bare minimum during the pandemic, being active (150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week is recommended) and following Canada’s Food Guide are two ways you can work towards reducing your risk of heart disease and improving your overall health.

Another way is to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Decorate your windows with some bright, red paper hearts, bake cookies to share with your neighbours, send a handwritten letter to someone special in your life, or call an old friend. Every act of kindness will go a long way to improving your mental health, which may give you the strength and motivation you need to improve your physical health.