Healthy Living in the North

Tales from the Man Cave: Reducing the risk of stroke

The journey

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” -Lao Tzu

As summer rolls on, it can be difficult to continue finding events to write about, but one topic that will never cease being important is making small changes to your lifestyle that have a big effect on your health!

Heart disease and stroke prevention

The Mayo Clinic recommends five steps to follow which will reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week
  • Eat a diet that’s healthy
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get regular check-ups

Research is good but how do we turn that information into real change in our lives? If you are overweight, smoke and have a bad diet, the road ahead can seem overwhelming and the best advice I can give is from a picture on the wall in my office:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” -Lao Tzu

Start with one step and add another

At first, the best step might simply be to go to the doctor and have a check-up. Then you have a starting point that can be a valuable place to dictate your next move.

In addition, add some fruit and vegetables to your diet, as well as some extra activity and exercise to your life. For some people this is best done by doing something that makes sense to them such as walking to work.

Stop smoking

If you smoke, there really is no getting around it. You have to stop.

It might help to try and motivate you by telling yourself that you will stop anyway – if you have a heart attack. So it’s best to reduce the risk of that by just stopping now.

Stopping smoking is the one big thing that you can do to help yourself. Nicotine replacement therapy is now available to help the quit and your doctor also can help if you are having a really hard time.

Some research has shown that there might be an advantage to wearing a nicotine patch and reducing your cigarette intake two weeks prior to quitting for good. In this way you are preparing yourself for the quit while actually reducing the level of harmful chemicals and carbon monoxide in the blood.

It might just work for you and, in any case, it’s a step in the right direction!

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.


February is Heart Month

Six warning signs of a heart attack

Watch for the six warning signs of a heart attack. (Source:

One of my colleagues recently sent me an email with the link for this short and funny video. In her email she asked how having a heart attack could be funny, but said the video was so great that it needed to be shared with all women.

This video makes me think, why do we need a funny video to make women notice that heart disease is the number one killer of women?

I think it’s that women are the caregivers to the family. Just like the Heart and Stroke Foundation video on “Make Death Wait” shows, women are so concerned that heart disease will affect others in our family that we don’t realize that it is actually coming for us.

February is Heart Month and we should be doing all we can to help ourselves! Here are some tips:

  1. Get informed. Seek out information from great sites like Heart and Stroke Foundation – take a look at their “Women and Heart Disease and Stroke” information.
  2. Know your risk. Heart disease and stroke is the leading cause of death for Canadian women. Did you know that most Canadian women have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke? Take the quiz and see what your risk is.
  3. Take control of your health.  We know that if women put their health first by making changes they can reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 80%.

If we can do this for ourselves, our girlfriends, our best friends, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, our nieces and granddaughters, we can hopefully all live a little longer and a little happier.

Barbara Hennessy

About Barbara Hennessy

Barbara Hennessy is Northern Health’s regional coordinator for cardiac & cerebrovascular services, and is very passionate about improving cardiac and cerebrovascular health for people of the north. Barbara has a Master’s in Nursing from Dalhousie University, with a specialty in adult cardiac population. In her previous roles in cardiac nursing, Barbara has worked in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and – saving the best for last – B.C.! In her spare time, Barbara loves reading, crafting, biking and seeing the beauty across northern B.C.


Know the signs of stroke: It can happen to anyone

My husband is 32 years old, and last month, he had a stroke.

I came home late one evening to find my husband tired and feeling sick to his stomach. After an hour of napping, he sat up and looked at me with a weird expression on his face – his left lip was pulled up slightly and his pupils were dilated. I half-jokingly asked, “What’s wrong with your face – are you having a stroke?” He was aware enough to get up and go to the mirror to see for himself, where he tugged at his lip a bit, but it stayed put. I asked him how he was feeling and he said, “Ummm…” and seemed to be wracking his brain for the right response. When he couldn’t remember what my name was, I knew we had a serious problem.

warning signs of stroke

Do you know the warning signs of stroke? (From

June is national Stroke Awareness Month and I wanted to share my story here in the hopes that I can encourage people to learn about the signs of stroke, as I’ve found that many people don’t understand how serious it is. Did you know the following stats?

  • Stroke is an urgent medical emergency that affects more people than you would imagine; the Heart and Stroke Foundation reports that more than 50,000 strokes occurs in Canada every year – that’s one every 10 minutes.
  • The first three and half hours are crucial in preventing long-term damage by receiving clot-busting drugs or other medical treatment, but about two-thirds of Canadians make it to the hospital too late to meet that target. Not surprisingly, adults under the age of 50 take the longest to call 9-1-1 due to denial, thereby risking death.
  • Stroke is the third leading cause of death in Canada.

When I realized there was something wrong with my husband, I admit I still wasn’t sure it was actually a stroke. Strokes only happen to eighty year olds, right? Not so. My husband had no risk factors. That night, he was walking around the house normally, and even went to put on socks when I told him we were going to the hospital, and he functioned as well as he does every morning. But he was experiencing a stroke.

My husband and I are extremely lucky. I got him to the hospital fast enough to save his life, and now, only a month later, he is back to his old self… except for the extreme health kick – a positive side effect of this life-changing experience. We’ve both changed some of our unhealthy habits for the better and look forward to a long and healthy life together.

Make sure you educate yourself and your family by knowing the signs of stroke. It might just save your life one day.

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care.