Q&A with Richard Hughson: Expert insights on how to keep your heart healthy
February 10, 2023
February is Heart Month, a dedicated time to raise awareness about the importance of cardiovascular health and the impact of heart disease on 2.6 million people in Canada. Despite the significant progress made in the field of heart health, heart disease remains one of the leading causes of death in the country. While genetics play a role, lifestyle factors can greatly reduce the risk of heart disease.
We spoke with Richard Hughson, Schlegel Research Chair in Vascular Aging and Brain Health, about simple ways you can keep your heart healthy and strong, and warning signs to look out for in yourself and loved ones.
What’s the most important thing you want older adults to know about their heart health?
Heart health and overall health go hand-in-hand. Intentionally include physical activity and good nutrition in your daily routine to keep your heart healthy. Also, good heart health provides some reserve for when your body needs to respond to an injury or illness.
What activities are best for improving heart health?
Walking with your partner, friends or by yourself every day for at least 30-minutes. Include stair climbing, uphill or faster walking at least 5 days per week. Challenge yourself to do a bit more than you did last week and avoid long periods of sitting.
What warning signs should older adults and their care partners look out for?
Fatigue or shortness of breath when walking at a speed that used to be comfortable could be a sign of heart troubles. Some problems with heart health, such as high blood pressure, are not visible so it’s important to check in with your health-care provider regularly.
What does your research seek to understand when it comes to heart health?
Heart health is a very large research topic. My research focuses on the arteries. Everyone’s arteries get stiffer as they age but not everyone’s arteries get stiffer at the same rate. Canadian physician Sir William Osler said over a century ago “you are only as old as your arteries.” Exercise and good nutrition help keep arteries “younger.” We look for benefits of younger arteries in keeping the heart healthier and delivering blood flow to the brain.
Hughson is also a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Waterloo and a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. To learn more about Hughson’s work, visit http://bit.ly/3wyEb0p.
To learn more about physical activity recommendations, check out the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults (65+ years), co-created with Schlegel Research Chair in Mobility and Aging, Lora Giangregario: https://csepguidelines.ca/guidelines/adults-65/.