Getting to the HEART of Preventing Cardiovascular Diseases [Event Recap]

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On February 6 2014, IWIS hosted the second Cafe Scientifique to discuss the risk factors and preventive strategies of cardiovascular diseases.

Dr. Gordon Francis, the Director at the Healthy Heart Program Prevention Clinic, shared his research related to the etiology of atherosclerotic plaque, and understanding whether increasing high density lipoproteins (HDL), also known as the “good cholesterols”, can protect us against heart diseases.

He commented that the major predictor for first heart attack is elevated ratio of Apolipoprotein-B/Apolipoprotein A-1, proteins responsible for lipid metabolism. Some risk factors are inherited, but fortunately, over 90% of the risk factors can be lowered through healthy lifestyles, including reducing smoking, stress and alcohol consumption.

Dr. Francis’s research focuses on a protein involved in good cholesterol formation, called ABCA-1. He found that patients with advanced atherosclerosis had lower ABCA-1 levels than those in the early stage of the diseases. This study was made possible because of a unique cardiovascular tissue bank at St. Paul’s hospital, allowing his research team to study the biological makers into the atheroma.

Professor Karin Humphries, an epidemiologist and a Professor at Women’s Cardiovascular Health, started her presentation pointing out that heart diseases affect more women than cancer. It is the leading cause of mortality in Canadian women, accounting for 30% of all deaths. Statistics also showed that the mortality rates are worse in young women less than 55 years old compared to young men. This may be because women tend to have microvascular diseases, which are not easily detectable. This disease leads to abnormal blood, resulting in harmful health issues.

She pointed out that preventive measures proven to be helpful are smoking cessation, managing hypertension, cholesterol level, and diabetes. It is also important to exercise and maintain a healthy body weight (a BMI ratio of less than 25 and waist size of less than 35inches).  She commented that waist perimeter is considered a better measure for visceral fat than BMI ratio.

Our moderator for this event was Deborah Rusch, the Manager at Survivor Support at Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. She facilitated an interactive question and answer period by bringing her experience in patient education to the table.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our speakers, moderator and volunteers. Thank you everyone for participating in this stimulating and exciting discussion. We look forward to seeing you all at  our next Cafe Scientifque on April 4. The topic of this event will be “Cancer Prevention: It is Not Just Your Genes”. Registration will open soon so stay tuned!.


Written by Blanca Rodriguez

Edited by Lee Ling Yang

Photo credit: Samaneh Khakshour




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