Heart health and financial stress – invest in your well-being

February is well known as Heart Health month. It’s an opportunity to draw attention to strategies to reduce risk, such as weight loss, physical activity and nutrition. Equally important is managing stress. Chronic stress has been linked to the six leading causes of illness and death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide. Personal finances is one of the significant stressors that needs to be considered in your heart healthy lifestyle. More than 4 in 10 Canadians say money is their greatest stress.

Stress is an inherent physiologic response to a threat. In primitive times, this response ensured our survival. Now, that threat could be an overdue payment notice from a creditor and the pace of modern life exposes us to these stressors more frequently. If we don’t effectively deal with these chronically high adrenaline and cortisol levels, this can cause real physical and mental health changes that will accumulate and manifest as significant health problems over time.

Three strategies that can help you work toward addressing financial stress are:

  • Have a Plan – identify your goals and budget for savings, spending and retirement and then follow through on your plan. Meet with a financial planner who can guide you through the important points to consider.
  • Manage Debt – identify how/ where it’s accumulating, pay off high interest debts first, consolidate your debt into one payment if possible.
  • Save for the future – be disciplined with a “pay your savings first” approach, choose a tax-deferred RRSP or TFSA. Diversify the types of investments you use to save.

Addressing the physical health effects of stress can also contribute to a feeling of balanced wellness. When your body feels well then the mind can more effectively manage stress.

  • Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco within 2 hours of bedtime.
  • Nourish your body with a variety of whole foods. Enjoy a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables as part of each meal and snack. Choose lower fat protein, including fish and plant-based sources. Include lower fat milk and dairy products. Choose whole grain breads, cereal, pasta and rice.
  • Keep your body moving. Enjoy activities of varying intensity throughout your week, accumulating 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic physical activity, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.

Stress is ever-present in our lives. When we create a plan to manage it we can improve our feeling of control over the various stressors and enhance our wellbeing. Contact your local Health Promotion office to learn more about the Stress: Take Charge workshop, and others, available to CAF members, their families and Defence Team partners. Call 613-687-5511 local 4685 or visit www.CAFconnection.ca/Petawawa.aspx. Our partners in the SISIP Financial Services team can help guide you in choosing options for creating financial health. Call 613-687-0025 or visit www.sisip.com.


  • Manulife Financial Group Retirement Solutions newsletter, “Being financially prepared can improve your health”, June 2018
  • Health Canada, Canada’s Food Guide, 2019
  • Directorate Force Health Protection (DFHP) Strengthening the Forces Stress: Take Charge Facilitator’s Manual, 2013