Our heart is one of the important organs in our body and it is important to keep it healthy.
But because of aging and lifestyle choices, it becomes increasingly challenging to keep our hearts healthy and happy.
This past Thursday (August 11th), Dr. Todd Duhamel of St. Boniface General Hospital dropped by CKJS Radio’s Afternoon Pasada program to tell us more about heart health and the research project they are currently doing that aims to bring better screening, especially for women.
Dr. Todd Duhamel is the:
Principal Investigator, Physical Activity and Chronic Disease Prevention, Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences
Associate Professor – Kinesiology & Recreational Management, University of Manitoba
Dr. Duhamel: Happy Hearts is a project that we got running at the St. Boniface Hospital. It’s one of our cardio-vascular screening programs that we are running right now. It’s research that we are interested in developing better screening tool to identify women that have early signs of heart disease, but haven’t had yet a heart attack. We are trying to identify them before that happens we could improve their health.
Lucille: Why the need for better screening?
Dr. Duhamel: Currently a lot of people see their doctor, get their blood and cholesterol checked, the usual things. And those are good. But research has come up with some new tests, tools, available..to know how stiff your arteries are, and some other things that we think can improve our ways of identifying cardiovascular risks before heart attacks happen.
The traditional methods we use were predominantly developed for men and there has been less research for years looking at women’s heart health. So one of the projects we’re doing at St. Boniface Hospital is to specifically develop something for women. And see if it’s also testable in men and see if they actually improve our current screening. Because most people don’t realize that the number one killer of women is heart attacks. Breast cancer is a big scare for women. It should be since it’s not a good thing. But over the last 20 years heart disease, cardiovascular disease is responsible for more deaths of women than cancer. That’s why it’s important for women to get involved in research and help us develop this new tools.
Lucille: What are the usual factors that weaken the heart?
Dr. Duhamel: A lot of it is behavioral. People as they age tend to be less active. They’re not out playing with their kids or doing exercise, things like that. Maybe we make some different food choices by eating really rich foods and energy and we gain a little bit of weight. Another thing is, as we age, we tend to lose some muscle mass, we are not as strong as we used to be. So some of the tests we do are walking tests to see how fit you are. We test your grip strength to see how frail you are, how strong you are. And there’s good evidence that we’re generating through our project at St. Boniface Hospital showing if you have good grip strength and if you walk fast, you can actually have better arteries, and we have tests available to prove that now.
Another test is the floor test. We get people to do a walking test and we take their blood pressure before and after we do their walking test. We’re doing grip strength to be able to see how strong they are, so it’s a pretty simple thing.
Lucille: How long are the tests for?
Dr. Duhamel: For the research we ask women to come in for one-to-two-hour appointment. And the reason it takes two hours is we just wanted to tell you about the study so you can make an informed decision. We ask for a blood sample and do a few walking test, blood pressure test and answer a few survey questions about your health background, your family history and things like that.
Lucille: Is it possible to have a massive heart attack without signs or symptoms?
Dr. Duhamel: Usually there’s something. But the way that women articulate and describe their symptoms is different than men do. The words they use are different. But a lot of times when people developing symptoms or shortness of breath, the words women choose are different, so when they talk to their physician they describe it differently, so sometimes it’s not diagnosed. The other thing is we think that heart disease is a man’s disease, but it’s actually not true. The difference is, men tend to have a heart attack between the age of 45 to 60. Whereas women tend to have it later in life, between 55 to 75. So what happens with women, they have great health as they go though life, plus with the protection of estrogen, their onset of heart disease is 10-15 years later than men’s. So there’s a perception that more men have heart attacks that women. But the reality is, women just have as many heart attacks as men, they just tend to have it ten years later.
Lucille: The research project is in need of Filipino women aged 55 and older to take part in the study…
Dr. Duhamel: Yes, we are looking for volunteers to come in and participate in the research. You will come in for a two-hour appointment, just one time. You can call us at 204-235-3589 to get more information about the study. We tell them where to go and all the things involved. We can answer all the questions you may have. Or you could send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
So there’s 2 ways to get a hold of us.
The project is likely running for the next 6 months or so we prefer for you to call us soon because we need to schedule your appointment, like any other medical appointment. We’re looking for 400 women and the faster the people volunteer, the faster we’ll get the project done, and the faster we could save women’s heart health.
Lucille: Besides gender and age, are there any other requirements to be able to participate in the research?
Dr. Duhamel: Just a few minor ones, we need you to be a citizen of Manitoba, so you would have a personal health card. Because if you have a health card we could track your data, how you interact with the health care system. We want people that have no past history of having a heart attack before. So we’re looking for relatively healthy people, who don’t know if that have heart disease or not. If you can call us or send us an e-mail, we can answer all your questions and give you more information, and find out if you will be able to go on with our study.
Lucille: How can we keep our hearts healthy and happy?
Dr. Duhamel: It’s a great question. First of all, I think you need to find things that you enjoy doing. Like spending time with family, getting out and being active with them. Don’t sit on the couch, don’t sit in front of a screen. Get out and do things. Live life! If you can get your heart pumping, it can actually makes the heart healthier. The other thing you can do, is when you’re eating good foods. We all like the rich delicious things, but it should just in moderation. And thirdly, women especially, should pay attention to your health. Go see your physician once a year or whenever you seem to have things going wrong. Pay attention to your body. If you have an ache or pain, or something tingling in your arms or discomfort when you’re exercising, talk to your physician and make sure you get checked. Because paying attention to your health early before something bad happens can actually get you health care that could prevent major incidences of heart disease.*