Are you at risk of heart disease? Know the risk factors.


Written by Komalpreet Kaur

Americans and Canadians are more likely to die from heart disease than any other disease. Fortunately, most deaths from heart disease can be prevented by recognizing symptoms early enough and seeking medical attention. And no matter what your perceived risks are, it’s extremely important to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, as there have been cases where people with no known risk factors still experience them.

This article will give you the insight you need to understand signs and symptoms, risk factors and common myths associated with heart disease.

Warning Signs: 

Here are a few warning signs of heart disease as stated in the Mayo Clinic’s book Healthy Heart for Life. If you ever experience any of the symptoms below, please have them checked out by a medical professional:

  • Chest pain or discomfort often noticed with physical activity or emotional stress, which goes away when you rest
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Shortness of breath during normal physical activities

If you have any of these symptoms, contact emergency services immediately:

  • Unexpected chest pain or discomfort that doesn’t go away after a few minutes or occurs when you are resting 
  • Discomfort in other areas of your upper body such as your arms, shoulders, back, neck,  jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath that doesn’t go away
  • Severe weakness, lightheadedness, cold sweat or fainting
  • Severe indigestion or heartburn that lasts more than a few minutes, feeling sick to your stomach, vomiting or abdominal discomfort

These symptoms can be more subtle especially in women, so don’t delay and get yourself checked out. Remember, the delay can be deadly!

Common myths about heart diseases

    1. ‘There is nothing I can do about it’: If you have a strong family history of heart disease,  that doesn’t mean you are destined to get heart disease and you cannot do anything about it. There are effective ways to prevent it.
    2. ‘I don’t have to worry. Heart disease doesn’t run in my family’: Assuming that you won’t get heart disease because you don’t have a family history doesn’t mean you are immune to heart disease. Most of the risks of heart disease are associated with choices you make in your daily life such as eating habits, level of physical activity.
    3. Only old people get heart disease’: The chances of getting heart disease increases as a person gets older. Most people fail to understand that lifestyle habits formed during childhood or early adulthood can be a threat to heart health. Even in children, plaques start to build up in arteries. People should start forming healthy habits early, as what they do in their youth affects their lives later.
    4. ‘I’ll know if I have a heart problem because I’ll have symptoms’: Sometimes a heart attack is the first sign of a heart problem. 50% of men and 64% of women who’ve had heart attacks showed no symptoms of heart disease before the attack. People with heart valve problems also may not experience symptoms.
    5. ‘Heart disease is more of a man’s issue than a woman’s issue’: Heart disease is a leading cause of death and disability in women. Women are hesitant to seek help with heart-related symptoms and also less likely to make lifestyle changes to help prevent heart disease.
    6. ‘I’ll change my lifestyle if I get in trouble’: It’s never too early to start. We often don’t feel the need to change our lifestyles if nothing is wrong, instead of waiting until after something happens to make meaningful changes. Unfortunately, you can’t prevent heart disease once you have a heart attack or heart problem—only the quality of life can be improved later. 
    7. But I’m already living a healthy lifestyle’: A lot of us think we’re healthier than we really are. There is often a difference between what we think we know about healthy behaviours and what we do. The four primary behaviours recommended for heart health are not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits and exercising regularly.

It’s important to be aware of potential risk factors. Plus, when you reduce your risk factors for heart disease, you also reduce your risk factors for various other diseases such as dementia, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, erectile dysfunction and blindness.

Risk Factors:

Dr. Beth Abramson in her book says “Heart disease is due to bad luck, bad living and bad genes”. This pretty much sums up the major risk factors of heart diseases.

Personal and Family History:

It’s important to build your medical history. It begins with consulting a doctor and understanding your health status. Your doctor can also help you understand how health issues like sleep apnea, being overweight, anemia, and kidney disease can be risks for heart disease. You should also be aware of your family history, specifically how many of your first-degree relatives (parents, siblings or children) have heart disease. Any man or woman with a parent with heart disease has a two times greater risk than a peer with no family history.


Smoking increases the risk of heart diseases, respiratory diseases, and cancer. The amount of risk associated with smoking and having a heart attack or stroke is even higher when people start smoking at a young age. Smoking narrows your blood vessels, raises blood pressure and increases the risk of blood clots. Any type of smoking is a preventable risk factor—second-hand smoke increases the risk of heart disease by 30%.

Cholesterol, Hypertension and Diabetes:

Cholesterol is the fat in your blood. HDL is high-density lipoprotein, which is good and should be high. LDL, on the other hand, is low-density and having high levels of it is bad, as it promotes the buildup of plaque in blood vessels. 

The impact of cholesterol levels on heart disease is significant. Ask your doctor to regularly check your cholesterol levels if you are a man over 40 years, a woman over 50 years, or if you have other risk factors.

Hypertension means high blood pressure. It’s also known as a silent killer as it damages and scars the arteries. If not treated it can cause stroke, heart attack or heart failure. According to Hypertension Canada, reducing your blood pressure by a small amount can reduce your risk of heart failure by 50%.

Diabetes occurs when your blood glucose levels are too high. High blood glucose levels can also contribute to plaque buildup in arteries. Adults with diabetes caused by an unhealthy lifestyle are two or three times more prone to heart disease than adults who do not have diabetes.


Nearly 1/4 of Canadians and more than 2/3 American adults are overweight or obese and it has a staggering effect on their health, increasing the risk of heart disease or conditions leading to heart diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or pre-diabetes, and sleep apnea. Being overweight or obese also reduces your lifespan by 3 years. Body Mass Index can be used as a measure to know if you are overweight or not.

Use the Body Mass Index Table for reference.

It’s important to note that what’s more important is making healthy food choices and staying healthy on the inside, rather than just a lean body achieved through a strict diet as looks can be deceiving.

Sedentary lifestyle: 

An active body= Healthy body.

Out of all the other risk factors for heart disease, a sedentary lifestyle is most common. Being inactive can be detrimental to your heart health. Sitting on your couch or your office chair for hours per day makes you more prone to obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels in the blood, and also increases your risk for diabetes. Little or no physical activity level, when paired with unhealthy food choices, is dangerous to your heart health. 


People who are sleep deprived most of the time or who do not enjoy a good slumber are more likely to be at risk for heart disease, regardless of age, gender, weight, and eating habits. Not getting enough sleep consistently can lead to an increase in blood pressure during the day, which leads to a greater chance for heart disease in the long term. 

Stress can also increase blood pressure and blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of heart disease.

Socio-economic status: 

More money= Easy access to better medical care

People at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum are at higher risk for heart disease.

This is due, in part, to not having the financial freedom to buy healthier food choices (junk food is cheaper than fruits and green groceries). People with low economic status are also more inclined to smoking, one of the four major risk factors.

Steps toward a healthy heart

  • Be extra cautious if you have a family history of heart disease
  • Quit smoking
  • Maintain a healthy weight 
  • Switch to healthy food habits such as including more fruits and vegetables, as well as grains in your meals
  • Eat breakfast
  • Be physically active
  • If you have a sedentary working environment or lifestyle, stand for a few minutes, go for a walk, or climb the stairs to take breaks from sitting for long hours
  • Switch to walking or cycling instead of driving
  • Engage in physical activities you enjoy
  • Calm your mind by meditating every day to keep stress levels in check long term
  • Sleep for 8 hours a night
  • Schedule regular visits with your doctor and understand your health status and family history
  • If on any medication, be sure to take it on time

What is Goals-Based Investing?

The hands of women holding watering can sprinkle coins

Written by James Gauthier, Chief Investment Officer at Justwealth

Most individuals are aware of the importance of investing – not everybody does it, but they know that it can be beneficial for their future. For those that are able and engaged in investing, a good percentage will invest their savings through their financial institution, a financial advisor or some will do it on their own. Financial planning helps investors figure out questions such as “How much do I need to save?”, “How much can I spend?” or “What rate of return do I need to make?”.
Before you attempt to answer these questions, you should be asking yourself the question “What is the objective of my investment?” The responses to this question can vary greatly, but might fall into one of the following categories:
• Saving for the short term (such as a down payment for a home in a few years)
• Saving for the long term (such as a retirement nest egg)
• Generating income (either as a primary or secondary source)
• Preserving your capital (looking to keep up with inflation or just very risk averse)

In the absence of having an objective for your investment, it is quite possible that financial planning software could determine that your required rate of return is something like 4% per year. Any asset allocation expert will tell you that there are hundreds of ways to construct a portfolio that can be expected to make a rate of return of 4%: it could be 4% purely in the form of income, it could be 4% through a combination of dividends and capital appreciation across a variety of conservative equity markets or it could be a portfolio that has very limited risk of producing a negative return over short periods of time (i.e. strong downside protection). Until you identify the specific investment objective that you are trying to achieve, there can be a lot of uncertainty in how best to create a portfolio that will satisfy your financial needs.

What goals-based investing attempts to do is to put your investment objective as the starting point in constructing a portfolio that will accomplish what you want it to do. Once that is defined, the variable(s) that need to be optimized are known, and you can place other constraints, limits, or preferences into your quantitative models that collectively produce a portfolio that will be optimal for achieving the investment objective.

As an example, consider a new retiree who is single, has a company pension of $20,000 per year and is entitled to government benefits of $15,000 per year. It is determined that the pensioner will require an additional $10,000 per year from investments to live comfortably, and has a non-registered investment account worth $250,000. If the pensioner were to go to a typical institution or financial representative that does not use goals-based investing, it is most likely that the portfolio recommended would be something along the lines of a “Moderate Growth” portfolio or 40% equity, 60% fixed income. This portfolio would be expected to deliver a return of roughly 4% with the lowest volatility possible. The portfolio would rank as a 2 out of 5 in the risk/return spectrum of the five different portfolio options that the firm offers.

This recommendation is likely the result of using modern portfolio theory (MPT) or optimization to determine the portfolio. Companies who use this approach are quick to point out that a Nobel Prize was awarded for the work done in this area back in the 1950’s by Harry Markowitz. The biggest problem with MPT is that it is 2-dimensional – there is risk (defined as the volatility of investment returns), and there is return; there is nothing else. To many people, risk is not defined as some statistical measure, it is the probability of losing money, making one of the 2 variables used by MPT of questionable value!

Goals-based investing does not restrict the analysis to the same 2 variables. The variables could include theoretically anything: income yield, after-tax total returns, probability of loss in the short term or the long term, etc. Goals-based investing can also use the same principles of MPT, but also add in many other forms of quantitative analysis including simulation, scenario analysis or stress testing to name a few.

Going back to our example, the same pensioner who provides the financial scenario to a company that uses goals-based investing is likely to get a portfolio recommendation that will provide almost all of the 4% required return in the form of income, the income would likely receive more favourable tax treatment, there will be little or no need to regularly realize gains (i.e. sell securities to make up for the shortfall in income) and the probability of losing money should be lower. That would be a win-win-win-win situation!

If done properly, goals-based investing is a more customized approach to building portfolios, and it results in investors having greater choice available to them to have a portfolio that has a greater likelihood of meeting their financial objective. Not using goals-based investing reminds me of a Henry Ford quote: “A customer can have their car painted any colour as long as it’s black.” Don’t settle for a black car, find a company that offers goals-based investing and get any colour that you like!



5 Concepts to Understand Before Taking a Big Loan

Post written by Emma Hughes

When borrowing money, it’s important that you understand some of the key concepts before you choose a lender or a loan. While there are many different loans, the concepts we will go over apply to any loan out there. For instance, loan interest rates are one of the factors to consider when getting a loan, and as Tasneem Panchbhaya discussed it’s also one of the factors to consider when repaying your loan. Interest and other concepts we will cover are important to understand before finalizing any loans and you should avoid the temptation to gloss over them. Here we’ll go over five of the concepts to give you a better idea before taking out a loan.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

When shopping for a business or personal loan, one concept to keep in mind is that the total annual cost of borrowing is called the APR. Many confuse this with interest rate; however, interest is just one aspect of APR, which includes other fees like origination fees and monthly maintenance charges. US News reveals that APR is generally a factor in business lines of credit loans, and term loans among others. Unsecured loans will also have higher APRs than secured ones, so do your research first to find the best type of loan suited to you. In their guide to loans, Marcus points out the importance of comparing loaning agents based on their APR. As such, from where and from whom you get a loan is a deciding factor. For instance, loans from online lenders generally cost more than a bank loan and may have other hidden fees.

Loan Repayments

Repaying your loan involves paying the amount you borrowed, as well as the interest rate. As you understand how loans work, you’ll see that each monthly payment is split into two parts, which CFP Justin Pritchard explains are your interest costs and the loan balance. You’ll also understand that through amortization your interest payments will decrease over time as long as you consistently pay the scheduled payment amount. As we mentioned, in the beginning, a good practice is to pay down the loans with the highest interest as in the long run, you’ll be saving on higher interest charges by prioritizing high interest revolving loans, like credit cards.

Non-Bank Loan Options

More and more Americans are turning to alternative options of borrowing, both online and through traditional brick and mortar institutions. Oracle’s Digital Demand in Retail Banking study on 5,200 consumers from 13 countries points out that over 40% of customers think that non-banks can better serve them with personal money management, and loans for their particular needs. These can include payday lenders and check cashing centers. Other non-bank alternatives offer a variety of loan options including mortgages loans and peer-to-peer loans. When compared to banks, however, these might have higher fees, costlier APRs and very high-interest rates.

Loan Collateral

When qualifying for a loan, lenders will look at your credit history. Good credit shows that in the past you’ve paid back loans, which means you’re a low-risk client who will most likely pay back their loan. However, if your credit isn’t good, if you qualify it might mean higher interest rates and you might also be asked for collateral. It can be anything from a vehicle to a house or anything else that is on par or exceeds the loan’s value. Whatever was agreed upon as collateral can be taken by the lender to be sold in the event you aren’t able to repay your loan.

Loan Default

If you fail to make your loan payments on time, your loan can go into default. The amount of time it takes for this to happen will depend on your loan terms, the lender as well as local and federal laws. With loan defaults not an uncommon occurrence in Canada, The Bank of Canada reported that defaults on Canadian consumer loans incur the highest loss rates. Defaulting on a loan can affect your credit score and in many cases, a default may be sent to the lender’s collections department or sold to a third-party debt collection agency. Worse, a default could result in potential garnishing of wages or tax refunds if a judgment is awarded against you.

How to Remain Healthy at Your Workplace


A 9-5 job can be very consuming. Additionally, the 8 hours long workday does not begin at 9 and end at 5; it starts from the time you wake up and prepare to go to work until the commute back home. With such a tight schedule it can be easy to prioritize work and chores over health. However, neglecting your diet and physical activity can have deleterious long-term effects. An unhealthy body can further have adverse effects on a person’s mental health as a good diet and regular exercise are essential to maintaining a positive mind. The following tips share how a person can be healthy throughout the day during a workday:

  • Never Skip a Meal: No matter how important a call/task or meeting it, it is crucial to find the time to eat a filling lunch. This will keep you powered up throughout the rest of the day and improve your work performance. Eating out regularly can be unhealthy. Conversely, meal prep in the morning can be time-consuming and you may have to sacrifice some precious sleep to pack your food.  We suggest preparing your meal the night before and refrigerating it. This way you get your daily intake of healthy food and catch some extra minutes of sleep!
  • Physical Exercises: Almost all corporate jobs are desk jobs. Toiling away at your desk all day long promises little productivity. To keep yourself fresh, move around your office every 1-2 hours and get the blood flowing. Furthermore, try to incorporate small exercises (also called deskercises!) while you are sitting at your desk such as shaking your legs and stretching. While the physical effort is minimal, the results can be substantial.
  • Limit Your Caffeine Intake: Caffeine is an essential item in a working adult’s lifestyle. While there is nothing more tempting than chugging cup after cup of coffee or tea, the caffeine can drastically affect sleep and even concentration. Limit your intake to one cup per day. Moreover, avoid coffee after 7 pm so it does not impact your sleep.
  • Make Healthy Choices: Offices often have free food items and snacks lying around in the kitchen. These can be enticing for their easy reach and value for money. But you should keep in mind the nutritional value of each snack. While they may be seemingly harmless, these snacks can pack on calories over-time. Combine this with an inactive work lifestyle and you have a recipe for disaster.

Optimity offers tons of activity packs that employees can make use of to lead a healthier and happier lifestyle. Whether you are a yoga aficionado or a gym beast, we promise we have something right up your alley!

Stress in the Workplace: Signs Your Employees are Burning Out


Stress is one of the leading causes of death in the world; it fuels heart problems, cancer and much more. Not only does stress lead to physical manifestations of diseases but it can also lead to mental health problems. It is crucial for employers to regulate stress-levels in the workplace by introducing fun activities and promoting a work-life balance. Conversely, employees who are chronically stressed may underperform or even burnout. Some of the signs of burnout that employers should be on the lookout for are as follows:

  • Fatigue- Fatigue is one of the most common and early symptoms of burnout. Employee fatigue can range from decreased socialization to the inability to keep up with the work schedule due to tiredness. Sometimes, people experience both fatigue and insomnia leading to a vicious and perpetual cycle of exhaustion.
  • Difficulty Concentrating– If you find that your employees have a problem concentrating on their work and often forget their tasks, they might be burning out. Despite their best efforts, some employees cannot focus on their job due to feelings of low self-esteem, alienation, and loss of future goals, among others. It is important for the HR official to have an open and empathetic conversation with the employee; merely berating someone for low performance will do little to no good.
  • Mood Swings- If your employee displays patterns of erratic behavior and is constantly shifting between feelings of anger and sadness, they may be physically and/or emotionally exhausted. Sometimes employees find it difficult to have an honest conversation with their higher-ups, due to a fear of being looked upon in an unfavorable light. If employers can spot the danger signs and initiate conversation, it can make the job less intimidating for the workers.
  • Cynicism/ Hostility– When employees are good at hiding their emotions, it may be difficult to spot burnout symptoms. Instead, the company should look at more indirect signs such as pessimism about the future, newly developed hostility towards certain subjects, feelings of hopelessness etc. 

What are some steps that employees can take to prevent burnout?

  • Take regular breaks. It is scientifically impossible for anyone to concentrate for hours at a stretch. Thus, rather than wasting time by trying really hard to concentrate, employees should just take well-deserved breaks. Examples include going out for coffee, chatting with other employees and stretching.
  • Have intense bouts of productivity. While working, employees should aim to concentrate very intently on the work they are doing and not get distracted. This strategy works hand in hand with taking breaks, as having intense bouts of productivity will give employees more chances to take breaks.

What are some steps employers can take to prevent burnout?

  • Provide positive workspaces. Including napping pods, music/disco rooms, reading spaces etc. provides a lot of incentive for employees to work hard. Additionally, painting the workspace in positive bright colors or having a greenroom can be great mental boosters as well.
  • Receptively listen to employees: Employers should openly listen to the concerns of employees. If an employee is worried about their health and wellness, it is imperative that the employer do whatever is needed to make them feel better.
  • Invest in corporate wellness programs. This is where Optimity comes in handy! Optimity aims to foster productivity and reduce burnout in the workplace by promoting health and fitness activities. Workplaces that use this platform have reported an 84 percent increase in health score. The benefits of Optimity transcend the simple prevention of burnout: the company feels well-integrated, employees cultivate great relationships with their colleagues and they get monetary rewards for being healthy!


How you can lead a blissful life

Happy person.jpeg

The vast majority of us go on to lead a normal middle-class lifestyle, bogged down on a daily basis with our nine to five office job and family responsibilities. Sure, people can go to nightclubs and other entertainment events to socialize and have fun, but is that really the definition of true happiness?  I’m sure that we’ve all heard of the saying “follow your bliss”, yet we tend to mistakenly brush it off as another one of those “empty” motivational phrases.

Well, you may ask, what could that possibly even mean and why should I do it? First and foremost, bliss can be characterized as that internal, fulfilling drive to satisfy your personal needs. To put it simply, following your bliss is the only pathway to true, long-lasting happiness. Ignoring materialistic needs, individuals on their deathbeds will often take the time to reflect and voice any regrets on certain fundamental life choices they made. Obviously, we’re not saying that you should prepare to meet your demise soon! Instead, making immediate blissful adjustments to your daily lifestyle will allow you to reap priceless benefits and live your best and happiest life possible.

As stated before, achieving an ever-lasting state of happiness requires you to follow your bliss and therefore take the necessary actions. We have listed four of our favourite activities below so you can kickstart your blissful journey on the right foot!

Make amends with hardships in your past

We know that it is never easy to forgive individuals who have hurt you deeply in the past, but keeping that hatred all your life will never make things better. If you carry that love and forgiveness attitude wherever you can expect to break down emotional walls and spread positivity. Never forget, but always forgive!

Treat your body right

You’ve only got one body so make the right choices. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is one of the many institutions bringing light to the link between food and mental health. Make sure you eat a balanced diet that is dominated by fresh, colourful vegetables. Try your best to buy organic and avoid highly-processed foods with ingredients you have never even heard of. The healthier the food, the better you can expect of your mental and physical health. Of course, make sure to indulge in your favourite, unhealthy foods once in a while too! Just make sure you maintain that balance of your body’s wants and needs.

Spend more time with loved ones

This one is hands down the most popular regret among those who are on their deathbeds. This may seem like a no-brainer, but millennials nowadays are so dominated by their jobs and social media that they often forget about their family. Make sure to spend more time with your parents as they get older, and surround yourself with positive friends who will support you all the way, no matter what. By valuing relationships, you will be able to effortlessly expand your social circle while retaining the old ones.

Mind your own business

Especially with the integration of social media into our daily lifestyle, we seem to care more about what our friends are up to rather than ourselves. The truth is that our own lives are so difficult to manage, let alone the weight of keeping up with a loved one. We’re not telling you to only care for yourself and be selfish. Instead, we just want you to put your personal affairs at the top of the priority list. Get rid of any forms of negativity in your life and boost your self-confidence. Eventually, you’ll start to see firsthand the freedom that comes with these boundaries.

Here at Optimity, we recognize that your personal wellness should come before anything else! That is why we have incorporated hundreds of micro-activities into our wellness app, ranging from in-seat stretches to meditation sessions, so you can easily integrate them into your daily schedule! If you would like to learn more about us, feel free to visit:

The Wonders of Journaling

Image result for writing a diary

Journaling has captivated the health and wellness industry for a variety of reasons, but the topic is often surrounded by these questions that circle around our heads:

  • What’s the point?
  • Why spend hours writing about your life?
  • Does it work?

Journaling is the notion of keeping a diary or journal to record your life. The main idea is to write down your emotions and thoughts, keeping track of your past experiences and gaining wisdom about yourself. Each day is unique and each page is to be filled with data that is unique to you. This is information that you can process and analyze to better understand the limitations, behaviour changes and the environment surrounding your life.

In this day and age, we are constantly looking to evolve concepts to better support our lives and journaling fits right into this adaption. It can be considered to the umbrella concept, as there are many subtopics within the subject. Aside from the traditional method of writing in a journal, it has transitioned into apps that allow you to track your fitness, log your meals and remind you to think.

Stress Management

The awareness that you give yourself allows you to be competent for the success that you value. Our society has witnessed a spike in mental health illnesses and we continue to chase solutions that can provide support. This is where journaling can be more than you might think. Stress, anxiety or depression are all examples of issues that can be addressed through journaling. If we keep track of the barriers that block the road, we can understand why it occurs and what needs to be done to avoid the recurring problem.

In different segments of our lives, this concept can be a game changer and this is exactly what The Research Journal of the National League for Nursing wanted to test.  The research targeted strategies that can be applied to nursing students to decrease stress and anxiety “that may be brought about by the psychiatric mental health clinical experience”. The study consisted of thirty undergraduate students that were given the task of tracking their progress to mitigate their anxiety and the results were evident. The self-reflection tool provided support for these students to reflect on their work and limit their anxiety to develop.

How to Journal

The University of Rochester Medical Center reiterates the benefits attached to this concept and implies the necessary steps to ensure success. Here are a few tips that we think you should do to value journaling to its full potential:

  • Make an effort to write everyday
  • Write whatever comes to your mind even if it’s messy
  • Make it convenient to write anytime, anywhere
  • Use your journal as you see fit

Here at Optimity, we recognize that people who commit to journaling on a daily basis tend to tail off after a couple of weeks. That is why we have incorporated hundreds of micro-activities into our wellness app, ranging from in-seat stretches to meditation sessions, so you can easily integrate them into your daily schedule! If you would like to learn more about us, feel free to visit: