Do you have a history of heart disease and worry about being turned down for life insurance?
If you are concerned that you may not be able to get life insurance – you do have a choice
and can apply for coverage.
- Heart Disease in Canada
- Risk factors and heart disease
- Reducing the risk
- Other things to know
- Take the Best Care
- No Obligation Quote
How Much Control Do We Have Over Heart Disease?
Approximately 2.4 million Canadians, ages 20 and older, are currently coping with heart disease. Cardiovascular disease is an equal opportunity killer and the second leading cause of death in Canada.1 However, there is a lot of hope in the realm of heart, because factors that put us at risk and taking preventive action can help us all improve our heart health outcomes.
What is heart disease?
Cardiovascular disease or heart disease is really a group of problems that affect the heart.
Coronary artery disease
Coronary artery disease is the narrowing or blockage of one or more of the heart’s arteries through atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. When the arteries get blocked, the heart doesn’t get enough oxygen from the blood, and it can’t pump sufficiently to support the body. Coronary artery disease can cause a number of issues: chest pain or angina; heart attack or myocardial infarction; and/or sudden heart stoppage or cardiac arrest.
Atherosclerosis refers to the actual buildup of plaque on the artery walls. Plaque is a sticky combination of calcium, cholesterol, fat, and other substances in the blood that builds up, turning the artery walls thick and hard. Typically, the coronary arteries, and those in the legs and neck, are the most frequently affected. Atherosclerosis starts early in life and is related to lifestyle, specifically diet, and usually most plaque is in place by middle age.
Angina, a kind of severe chest pain, is caused when blood flow to the heart drops severely. This means there is not enough oxygen for the heart muscle to work as it should. Angina is a serious warning sign that can occur with a heart attack, before or after one, or even by itself. Repeated angina attacks can weaken the heart muscle over time, keeping it from pumping effectively and stopping the body from getting enough oxygen for normal activities.
Stress and angina often come together because stress makes your heart work harder. It may not be easy, however, it is important to avoid stress if you suffer from angina. Pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath can all be signs of angina, but with a peaceful lifestyle, rest, and in some cases prescription nitroglycerin, it can be treated and controlled.
If you suffer from angina, remember to avoid the four E’s to keep it under control: avoid exertion, eating too much, emotional stress, and environmental conditions that are too cold or hot.
A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, happens when the flow of blood is blocked through one or more of the coronary arteries. The blockage prevents oxygen from reaching the heart, which can damage it permanently. This is why it is so important to seek medical attention quickly; the sooner the oxygen supply is restored, the less damage will be done.
Three different things can cause a heart attack: atherosclerosis, the plaque build-up discussed above; a blood clot, which will often form as a result of plaque; and coronary artery spasms, the causes of which are frequently unknown. Signs of heart attack include chest pain, burning, or pressure; discomfort in the neck, shoulder, arms, jaw, or back; shortness of breath; light-headedness; nausea; and sweating.
Statistics on heart disease in Canada2
- Around 1 in 12 Canadian adults age 20 and over have been diagnosed with heart disease
- About 12 Canadians adults age 20 and over die of heart disease every hour.
- The death rate for adults age 20 and over diagnosed with heart disease is 4 times higher than the average death rate in the Canadian population—and that rises to 6 times higher among those diagnosed with heart failure who are age 40 and above.
- Men are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than women.
- Men usually get their first diagnosis of heart disease at age 55 to 64, around 10 years younger than women, at age 65 to 74.
However, there are also some more positive statistics which indicate that we are making progress.
Risk factors and heart disease
9 out of 10 Canadians over the age of 20 have at least one risk factor for heart disease, and 4 in 10 have three or more risk factors. Many factors increase the risk of heart disease. Some can be controlled, while others are not within our power to take charge of.
Controllable risk factors include:
- Smoking. Smoking raises blood pressure and helps block arteries, placing you at higher risk of heart disease.
- Too much alcohol. Consuming too much alcohol can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
- Poor fitness. A lack of regular exercise places you at greater risk of heart disease.
- Unhealthy diet. A poor diet without enough fruit and vegetables, and too much trans and saturated fats and sodium places you at greater risk of heart disease.
- Overweight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing heart disease. Your waist size can signal whether you have a high risk of heart disease. Too much fat around your waist can mean a greater risk of heart disease, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type-2 diabetes even if you are at a healthy weight. For men, a waist size of more than 94 cm (37 inches) places you at increased risk, and more than 102 cm (40 inches) places you at substantially increased risk. For women, a waist size of more than 80 cm (31.5 inches) places you at increased risk, and more than 88 cm (35 inches) places you at substantially increased risk.
- High blood pressure. High blood pressure can ultimately cause assorted conditions which lead to various kinds of heart disease, including strokes, heart attacks, and a thickened heart muscle (hypertrophy) which can lead to heart failure.
- High cholesterol. Too much bad cholesterol, called LDL cholesterol, can block the arteries, and raise your risk of heart disease. Good cholesterol, called HDL cholesterol, helps move bad cholesterol to be broken down in the liver. Low levels of HDL cholesterol also increases your risk of heart attack.
- Diabetes. Diabetes, especially when it is poorly controlled, increases the risk of heart disease. If your body does not use insulin well or make enough of it, you will have high blood sugar. High blood sugar increases buildup of plaque and narrowing of the arteries, raising your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
- Stress. High levels of stress, or stress that is prolonged, can result in disturbances in heart rhythm as well as problems that can cause heart disease such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Uncontrollable risk factors include:
- Age. Heart disease risk increases with age. This is especially so for men over the age of 45, women over the age of 55 and/or women who have gone through menopause.
- Family history. If anyone in your immediate family (siblings or parents) has had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a heart attack, your risk of heart disease is higher.
- Build. People whose bodies are shaped more like apples, with fat accumulating at the waistline or higher, have a higher risk of heart disease than people with pear body shapes, with fat accumulating in the hips and buttocks.
Reducing the risk
So, how can you reduce your risk of heart disease? You can bring down your risk of developing heart disease by adopting a healthier lifestyle:
- Seek medical advice. Talk to your doctor or another healthcare professional about your risk factors for heart disease. Early detection and treatment of conditions that lead to heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, can greatly lower your risk of developing heart disease.
- Don’t smoke. Quit smoking and improve your chances of escaping heart disease, and many other health problems.
- Consume alcohol in moderation. Drinking too much places you at risk for multiple health issues, including heart disease.
- Exercise. You don’t need to run a marathon, but stay active. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day.
- Eat well. Develop and stick to healthful eating habits. Canada’s Food Guide is a great place to start. In particular, make sure you get plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, limit sodium and saturated fats, avoid trans-fat, and in general stick to fresh, unprocessed foods.
- Stay at a healthy weight. Achieve and maintain a weight that is healthy for you by adjusting your diet and staying active.
- Manage stress. Learn how to manage your stress, and cope with problems healthy ways.
Heart healthy foods
Fresh fruits and vegetables: apples, bell peppers, berries, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, dark leafy greens, eggplant, grapes, kale, oranges, pears, squash, tomatoes, zucchini
Dairy that’s low in fat: low-fat or non-fat buttermilk, creamers, and milk; non-fat or reduced fat cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, and ricotta cheese; non-fat yogurt; and non-fat sour cream
Lean proteins: lean beef, beans (black, garbanzo, kidney, navy, pinto), chicken or turkey breast, fish, ground chicken or turkey, pork tenderloin, seitan, tempeh, tofu
Grains: barley, whole-grain cereals, cornmeal, ground flaxseed, whole wheat flour, bulgur, couscous, millet, oat bran, oats, polenta, quinoa, rice, wheat berries, whole grain pasta
Other things to know about heart disease
There are a few other things to remember when it comes to preventing heart disease.
If you are taking medications that contain estrogen, be aware that they increase the risk of heart attack. Hormone replacement therapy, which is typically prescribed for patients experiencing symptoms of menopause, contains estrogen as do many birth control pills. Among estrogen takers, women 35 years and older who smoke are at the highest risk If your medications contain estrogen, talk to your healthcare provider about the benefits and risks, including heart disease.
Sleep apnea, a condition that causes breathing to start and stop repeatedly during sleep, is a serious issue that is strongly linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Any pauses in breathing are hard on the heart, because they decrease the amount of oxygen it receives. If you have sleep apnea it is critical to treat it, so talk with your doctor or healthcare professional.
Arrhythmia is a heartbeat or rhythm that’s abnormal—too fast or slow, or just uneven. This can be caused by a lack of blood flow to the heart. An arrhythmia can be temporary or the norm for a particular person; it can be very dangerous, or not significant at all. Therefore, it goes without saying: make sure you are seen by your healthcare provider if you experience arrhythmia.
Peripheral artery disease
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a lot like atherosclerosis, only in PAD, the hardening of the arteries takes place outside the heart, in some other part of the body—most commonly in the legs, arms, brain, kidneys, stomach, and aorta. PAD is a serious disease that increases your risk of heart disease and can put you at risk for loss of limbs.
Toward a healthier lifestyle
The bottom line is that we do have some control over heart disease—and that’s great news. The key to a healthier lifestyle is developing healthier habits and sticking with them. These kinds of changes can happen.
Seek out support. Your family and friends want and need you to be healthy, and there are many cardiac rehabilitation programs available to help Canadians living with heart disease. The Canadian Association of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation (www.cacpr.ca) can help you find a program close to you.
Keep track of your progress. Following your progress makes it more likely that you’ll achieve your goals. Keep track of your time at the gym, or your healthy meals planned at home. You’ll stop tracking when you’ve established your great new behaviors as habits.
Even when you fail, stick with your plans. Everyone slips up sometimes! Don’t dwell on those lapses. Instead, just get back on track, remembering that doing so is better for your heart health.
Take pride in your successes. As you see your blood pressure drop, and your cholesterol levels even out, reward yourself. If you achieve your “stop smoking goal”, celebrate! When you’ve gone walking after dinner every day this week, treat yourself. You’re working to take control over your risks for heart disease, you deserve it.
We hope that the information here has been useful. If you have questions about heart disease, seek out the advice of a healthcare provider.
If you have questions about getting life insurance, know that there are options. You can be provided with coverage regardless of health conditions, such as heart disease.
Take the Best Care of Yourself and Your Heart
Understanding life insurance and coverage can be tough, especially when you have heart disease or are recovering from a heart attack. A heart disease diagnoses could leave you feeling anxious, scared and overwhelmed but it’s important to shift your focus on taking the best care for yourself and your heart. When facing high medical costs and the difficulty qualifying for coverage in Canada, finding the right plan for you might seem like an impossible task, but it isn’t.
WHY SHOULD YOU CONSIDER NO MEDICAL AND SIMPLIFIED ISSUE LIFE INSURANCE?
Below are the top reasons Canadians are choosing to protect themselves with No Medical and Simplified Issue Life Insurance:
- You have health problems
- You’re hard to insure due to your health condition
- You have a dangerous job or participate in high risk sports
- Fear of needles or dislike of medical exams
- Your time is valuable, and you simply want the process to be fast
You can be covered regardless of health issues, such as heart disease. No Medical life insurance can be an excellent solution for your needs.