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5 ways you can make health last

By Sean McNeely
Posted: February 2013

You may not know it, but you’re at risk of spending the last 10 years of your life battling illness and disability.

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Good health habits lead to a vitality-filled future.

Research shows that for many of us, there’s 10-year gap between how long we’ll live and how long we will be in good health. But we can close that gap and change our future. We can start now to ensure that last decade is spent doing the things we love to do – travelling, spending time with family, pursuing hobbies.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation has launched Make Health Last – a movement to motivate Canadians to make healthy changes now so that they can enjoy their later years with vitality.

The key is the risk factors that increase our odds of heart disease, stroke and other illnesses. Almost all of us have at least one risk factor. Some, such as our genetic heritage, can’t be changed. But other risk factors can be controlled through the choices we make every day.

Need convincing? Take a look at how many healthy years these risk factors could cost you.

Cost of physical inactivity: Four quality years*
Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. And it doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym. Any physical activity can have a positive impact on your heart health, including walking and dancing. The Heart and Stroke Foundation has tips to help you get active. Or check out Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines (PDF).

Cost of a poor diet: Three quality years
A nutritious and balanced diet helps you manage your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels and boosts your overall well-being. Canada’s Food Guide recommends women aged 19-50 eat seven to eight servings of vegetables and fruit per day, while men should eat eight to 10. The Foundation’s Eat Well Live Longer brochure (PDF) can help.

Cost of excessive stress: Two quality years
Too much stress can elevate blood cholesterol or blood pressure and make it difficult to lead a healthy lifestyle – especially since many respond of us to stress by eating, drinking or smoking too much. In times of stress, it’s important to care for your physical and mental health. Check out the Foundation’s Coping with Stress brochure (PDF).

Cost of smoking: Two and a half quality years
Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. The sooner you become smoke free, the sooner your body recovers. Follow the Foundation’s tips and supportive resources to butt out. Your body will thank you. Within 10 years of becoming smoke-free, your risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half. After 15 years of being smoke-free, your risk of dying will be nearly that of a non-smoker.

Cost of excessive drinking: Two quality years
If you drink alcohol, moderation is key – women should limit themselves to two drinks a day or 10 drinks a week, and men should limit themselves to three drinks a day or 15 drinks a week. Check the Foundation’s alcohol consumption guidelines for more information.

Visit for tips and tools, along with a personal risk assessment to help you move from awareness to action and make the changes you need to add quality to your years.

*Cost factors come from Seven more years: The impact of smoking, alcohol, diet, physical activity, and stress on health and life expectancy in Ontario. ICES/PHO report. April 2012.

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