Health Tips Video: Prevention is Key with Heart Disease

Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada. Visit our healthy heart clinics

Heart disease is the second leading cause of death for Canadians (after cancer). Heart disease is actually a class of diseases that involve the structure and functions of the heart, including conditions like angina, arrhythmia, stroke, heart attack, and more.

Prevention of Heart Disease is Key

According to Sam Ma, a registered pharmacist with London Drugs, “Prevention is really key. Often there are no symptoms of heart problems until the underlying disease has progressed.” That’s really scary when you consider that 90% of Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease.

This means that routine screening is really important, and especially important if you’re a woman. The classic symptoms of heart disease don’t always appear in women. Women’s heart disease tends to manifest as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, stomach upset like indigestion or nausea, fatigue, and back or neck pain rather than the crushing chest pain men might experience. Because women’s heart disease can be harder to spot, women are also less likely to be prescribed the drugs they need to lower their blood pressure or cholesterol.

Check out a London Drugs Healthy Heart Clinic

So how can you get screened? London Drugs’ Healthy Heart Clinics are a great option. These are 45-minute one-on-one consultations with a Patient Care Pharmacist to discuss your heart health and look at your risk profile. This includes your lifestyle, family history, and risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the main risk factors for heart disease and it’s estimated that 6 million adults in Canada suffer from high blood pressure.

During this screening, the pharmacist will measure your blood pressure and test your cholesterol and blood sugar via a pin-prick blood sample. You’ll also have a conversation about lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of heart disease, such as:

  • Changing your diet
  • Increasing your fitness routine
  • Quitting smoking
  • Cutting back on alcohol consumption

Your pharmacist can also call your family doctor with the results of the screening and recommend potential changes to your medication that could improve your heart health, if necessary.

You can book an appointment online at, or by calling your local London Drugs. Be sure to bring along all your prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and any herbal remedies you take to help give your pharmacist a comprehensive view of your medication routine.

Book your Healthy Heart appointment by visiting and read more on heart health here.

Pharmacy Awareness Month: Pharmacists are Medication Experts and So Much More

Pharmacy Awareness Month London Drugs Hearth Health Clinics

As the most accessible health care providers in Canada, pharmacists collaborate with patients, their families and other health care providers to deliver a range of innovative services.

During Pharmacy Awareness Month this March, London Drugs pharmacists are reminding patients of the expanded role they play in health care and are encouraging Canadians to take advantage of the valuable health services offered conveniently at London Drugs pharmacies.

LD Pharmacist Leah Sarich on BT Calgary 

BT Calgary London Drugs Pharmacist Leah Sarich

London Drugs Pharmacist, Agusia McGrath, sat down with Breakfast Television Calgary’s Health Specialist, Leah Sarich, to talk about the range of wellness services pharmacists can provide. To watch, just click here.

Services offered at London Drugs pharmacies include:

Discover more about the services at your local London Drugs pharmacy by talking to a pharmacist in-store, or reading more information online.

What’s Your Risk of Heart Disease? London Drugs Now Offering Critical Screening Tests

The statistics are staggering: heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada[1], and the leading cause of premature death among women[2]. Otherwise known as the ‘silent killer’, heart disease often has no symptoms, until the underlying disease has progressed. When signs are present, they are easily missed or dismissed.

Heart Health Clinics London Drugs

As one of the most accessible health care providers available to Canadians, our pharmacists are stepping up their efforts to help in the prevention of heart disease by providing critical screening tests conveniently in the pharmacy.

The benefits of screening tests

London Drugs Pharmacist Agusha McGrath recently visited Breakfast Television in Calgary to explain how the screening tests work, and how you can recognize the early signs of heart disease. Click here to watch.

Pharmacists like Agusha now play a key role in the prevention of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems: helping patients understand their risk factors, emphasizing the importance of medication adherence and offering counselling to make important lifestyle changes.

Sit down with a London Drugs Pharmacist

To help you take control of your own heart health and learn about heart disease prevention, our pharmacists are offering Healthy Heart Clinics, running now until April 26th at 68 London Drugs locations.

During the one-on-one 45 minute Healthy Heart clinics, patients will have the opportunity to sit down with a London Drugs Patient Care Pharmacist for a customized screening and evaluation. The pharmacist screens for total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, random glucose and blood pressure, and can determine a 10-year cardiovascular risk factor based on those measurements.

They also discuss with the patient how to lower their risk and improve heart health, which includes recommendations for changes to diet, fitness routines or lifestyle. As a collaborative health care provider, the pharmacist may also contact a physician, in order to recommend changes to the patient’s medications, or further medical intervention.

To book a Healthy Heart Clinic appointment visit:

[1] Public Health Agency of Canada
[2] Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, 2018 Heart Report

Dr Art Hister – Yet another reason to eat your veggies

The good news is that you can lower your risk of stroke.

The bad news, at least for some of you, is that you have to eat your veggies.

A study (published in the journal Stroke: Journal of the American Medical Association) involving over 30,000 Swedish women, some of whom had pre-existing cardiovascular disease, found that those who ate the best diet in terms of anti-oxidant intake had a significantly lower risk of stroke than women who ate a poorer diet, which is no surprise, of course.

But what is a bit of a surprise is that the women eating an anti-oxidant-rich diet had a lower risk of stroke even if they had a history of heart disease.

In other words, and this should be no surprise, the people who likely gain the most from starting to follow a healthy health practice, which in this case is to eat your veggies, are also likely to gain the most from making that change.

Which doesn’t mean, of course, that those of us who are already doing the right things don’t have to emphasize doing them as much – it’s just that we start from a better place in that dash to live longer and healthier, so we don’t have nearly as much to gain from improving what we are already doing.

The Facts About Cholesterol

Cholesterol is an important substance in our bodies that, for the most part, occurs naturally. It helps our bodies make hormones, process vitamin D, build cells and create substances that help us digest food. Cholesterol can become dangerous, though, when the levels in our blood stream get too high.
Most of the cholesterol in our bodies—about 80%—is made by our liver. The other 20% comes from the foods we eat. A person can’t tell if his or her cholesterol levels are too high, as there aren’t any noticeable symptoms. To determine your cholesterol levels you need to have a blood test done by your doctor involving a tiny sample of blood.
The test will analyze the two main components of cholesterol—low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
LDL is sometimes referred to as “bad” cholesterol, because at high levels it builds up and can block our arteries, preventing blood moving freely through our bodies. HDL is usually called “good” cholesterol, because its job is to carry excess cholesterol from other parts of our bodies, including the arteries, back to the liver. Not only does the liver produce cholesterol, it also removes it from our bodies.
Your doctor may also assess your triglyceride and C-reactive protein levels. These are other indicators found in your blood test that could signal an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

Lowering Cholesterol

The first step is to make a lifestyle change, and a big part of lifestyle is eating a healthier diet. Here are some things you should reduce or avoid to maintain healthy cholesterol levels:
  • Saturated fats—These are found in animal-based foods such as meat and dairy products, and in some plant foods such as coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter. Avoid or limit deli meats. Choose lean cuts of meat, or replace with fish and legumes (lentils, beans) instead.
  • Trans fats—These are a form of man-made fat that is created during a process called hydrogenation. This is where liquid oils are turned into solid fat (such as some margarines.) While technically unsaturated, these facts act like saturated fats and raise blood levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Choose oils high in mono-and polyunsaturated fats such as canola, corn, or soya oil. Use in moderation.
  • Avoid dairy products with high milk fat—choose 1% MF (milk fat) or cheeses with 15% MF or lower.
There are things you can add to or change in your diet which help the body eliminate excess blood cholesterol.
  • Soluble fibre—This is found in oat bran, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Unsaturated fats—These are found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish.
  • Cooking—More often than not, opt to broil, bake, poach, or even microwave food instead of frying.
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Other tips to beat “bad” cholesterol

Keeping active and maintaining a healthy body weight will also help reduce cholesterol levels. And finally, quit smoking. It’s been found that tobacco reduces your level of HDL, “good” cholesterol, and raises your total blood cholesterol levels—which makes the perfect combination for increasing your total risk of having a heart attack.
If your doctor feels you need to be on cholesterol-lowering medication, it’s important to take it exactly as directed. For more information on cholesterol, or advice on making different lifestyle choices, come by the pharmacy and ask your London Drugs pharmacist.
This article is based on the patient information pamphlet and “My Cholesterol Journal”, available at your London Drugs pharmacy.

Dr Art Hister – Food to Lower LDL

First, the very, very good news: a study has shown that a combination of foods – not just single good-guy foods such as fish or veggies but the whole shebang put together – can significantly lower the risk of bad health consequences in individuals who eat that combo, and in only a short period of time, which may be even better news.

Thus, in this small study of 44 overweight people from Lund University in Sweden, the individuals who ate the way they were told to eat lowered their LDL levels (that’s the “bad” cholesterol) by a staggering 33 % through diet alone (in most diets the maximum LDL-lowering effect is usually about 15-20 %), their total cholesterol levels fell by 14 %, and they also experienced significantly improved levels of other important metabolic factors such as clotting proteins.

So what’s the bad news, you wonder.

Just this: the foods they were given to eat which were very rich in the usual good-guy elements (anti-oxidants, fish oils, probiotics, fibre etc.) and which included good stuff like blueberries and veggies also included heavy doses of barley, soy protein, oily fish (which in Sweden must surely have been herring and the like) and vinegar.

I think if it were me, I’d settle for less of a drop in LDL if it also meant less of an intake of tofu, barley, and herring.

Dr Art Hister – Marathon Runners

If you want to run a marathon, get tested first.

For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, so many baby boomers have set themselves a goal of running a marathon (or several) before they pass into older age. Unfortunately, many have set out to do this without first determining if they are fit enough to undergo the load that marathon-running puts on their no-longer-that-young hearts.

So a recent study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010 should get at least a few marathon-hoping individuals to sit up and take note.

In this study that used MRIs and a sophisticated battery of tests on a group of amateur marathon runners both before and up to 8 weeks after the race, the researchers found that “abnormal heart segments (are) more widespread and significant” in non-fit runners (presumably, more widespread than most people or doctors think).
And the lead researcher concludes that “marathon runners can be a lot less fit than they think” (which if you’ve ever been to a marathon and watched the parade of runners that come by is absolutely no surprise). He goes on to advise that everyone who is thinking of running a marathon should seriously consider getting a test known as Vo2 max, which measures oxygen consumption by the heart while the person is working out.

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