February is Heart Month and this year, more than ever, it is important for people not to forget about their cardiovascular health.  Heart disease affects approximately 2.4 million Canadian adults according to 2012/2013 data and is the second leading cause of death in Canada.

It appears that people are procrastinating on booking regular checkups and ignoring telltale signs and symptoms because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Adam Nielsen with the Maple Leaf Health Centre in Fireside, Cochrane says doctors are still here for you and it is very important to keep up regular visits.

Dr. Nielsen says, “Throughout this pandemic, a lot of people haven’t really realized that their doctors are still open, still seeing patients, still dealing with patient's concerns over the phone as well.” It is important to reach out to your family doctor and make sure your general health is being maintained. Screening blood work is so important in catching heart issues or cancer issues. Nielsen says, “If we completely negate all of that stuff, and COVID has been with us probably longer than people would have liked for sure, it’s still going to be with us for quite a while as well. So, we can’t just be completely forgetting about  lots of these other things with our health because then we are going to be in for a world of hurt once we are actually through this.”

So, recognition of Heart Month this February is a good way for us to bring our cardiovascular health to the forefront of our mind and put COVID at the back for a bit.

Heart health is a topic that has particular significance to Dr. Nielson as he says, “My grandfather, who I was very close with ended up passing away from a stroke and so it is something that is very very prevalent. Nowadays, with everybody so focused on COVID lots of people are either afraid to go to the hospital when they are starting to get some warning signs and sometimes it ends up being a little bit too late because time is very very precious both for your brain and your heart when something is going on.”

So what are the signs of heart disease and heart problems?

Dr. Nielsen says, “Classic signs of heart disease often it is, with exertion, either having shortness of breath, having some chest pain. Sometimes that pain radiating to the shoulder down to the left arm as well. That is really quite prevalent in men. Sometimes with women, they will present a little bit more atypically. Often it will be just having that shoulder pain or sometimes it will be just feeling a little bit more fatigued when you are doing things that are exertional that you have always done and now you are starting to end up with a few little symptoms. And sometimes there is nausea with exertion as well."

“Generally, if you are feeling a little bit differently when you are exerting yourself and it’s more than just deconditioning because you haven’t been as active because the gyms are closed and different things like that. That’s a good time to be speaking with your doctor.”

To recap, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is vitally important to seek medical help.

  • Chest discomfort
  • Sweating
  • Upper body discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, and or back
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness

Dr. Nielsen realizes that some Cochranites may not have a doctor here in town, but suggests that if you have concerns or questions you can also ask your local pharmacist for advice.  “We have a great pharmacist next to our clinic here in Fireside. He will often be very useful in helping you to know if it’s something you should be talking to a doctor about."

A stroke is another cardiovascular issue that the telltale signs should never be ignored and you must seek immediate help.

  • Slurred speech or difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty with swallowing
  • Confusion
  • Fainting or vertigo
  • Visual changes like flashers

Remember FAST

Face - is it drooping?

Arms - can you raise both?

Speech - is it slurred or jumbled?

Time to call 9-1-1 immediately


Heart Month during February provides the opportunity to bring heart health into the limelight.

Never ignore the signs your body may be telling you as frivolous, if you think something is off then seek professional help. 

Time is of the essence when it comes to cardiovascular health and it should be focussed upon every month of the year even during a pandemic.

For more information go to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

For more information on the Maple Leaf Health Centre click here