Heart disease touches more than one in two Canadians and new obstacles loom on the horizon
OTTAWA, Feb. 3, 2015 /CNW/ - The 2015 Heart and Stroke Foundation Report on the Health of Canadians looks back on 60 years of life-saving, ground-breaking research, revealing astonishing improvements in diagnosis, treatments, and outcomes between then and now. However, these gains will be threatened as our population changes and some risk factors for heart disease are set to rise sharply.
"We have made incredible progress in improving the heart health of Canadians since the 1950s and 1960s," says David Sculthorpe, CEO, Heart and Stroke Foundation. "Back then of those who made it to hospital after a heart attack, 30 – 35 per cent did not survive. Today that number is down to five per cent. Or put another way, 95 per cent of Canadians who have a heart attack will now survive – thanks to research."
According to a new Heart and Stroke Foundation poll* Canadians are not aware of the progress that has been made – less than one-quarter realize that survival rates are now so promising. And yet, heart disease has an extensive reach across our country. In fact, according to the poll, more than half of Canadians report that someone close to them has had heart disease.
Decades of progress
The Foundation interviewed 16 of the country's leading cardiovascular experts, who agree the greatest accomplishment regarding heart disease has been in survival rates. In 1952, cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) was responsible for almost half (46 per cent) of all deaths in Canada. Today it accounts for just over one quarter (27 per cent) of all deaths. Sixty years ago, fewer than 20 per cent of infants born with complex heart defects reached adulthood, but today, more than 90 per cent do.
This success is directly related to research advances in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care including:
Much of the discovery noted above – as well as pacemakers, "blue baby" surgery and clot-busting drugs – are breakthroughs that started with Heart and Stroke Foundation research. Since its inception in 1952, the Foundation has invested more than $1.4 billion in vital heart and stroke research, making it the largest contributor in Canada after the federal government. Last year we invested almost $34 million in research across Canada and we have committed to raise $300 million for research over the next decade.
New challenges threaten advances
Despite the amazing accomplishments, we are in danger of losing the gains we have worked so hard for.
"We cannot underestimate the progress we have made, but we still have an enormous task in front of us," says Sculthorpe. "Heart disease and stroke continue to be the second leading cause of death in Canada and a leading cause of disability, responsible for 66,000 deaths each year. And we know we are facing a new set of challenges that will require more research and new solutions."
While we have made improvements in managing some risk factors, we have also lost incredible ground in other areas:
The changing face of heart disease
The portrait of the typical heart patient has changed dramatically. Dr. Eldon Smith began practicing cardiology in the 1960s and has seen a shift in the typical heart patient over his long career.
"Back then, 75 per cent of my patients were male. The average age was 55; they were married, employed, smokers, overweight and sedentary. They usually had other risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which may have been diagnosed but were likely not being managed – the drugs were so awful they would not take them," says Dr. Smith.
This contrasts with what is seen today. Dr. Smith notes the average patient is substantially older, and still likely to be male – although the numbers of women with heart disease has risen. Patients still tend to be overweight, and while many have high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, these are most likely diagnosed and well managed. Fewer are smokers, but if anything heart disease patients are even more sedentary than in the past.
A revolution in recovery
Comparing the quality of life in heart disease survivors between "then" and "now" also reveals a true transformation, according to Dr. Smith. Fifty years ago if someone survived a heart attack, they were often very sick and lived a life of restriction. They convalesced for months and were sent home and often advised to buy a rocking chair and watch TV; they were told not to return to work and to avoid physical activity, including sex. Their lives never went back to normal. Survivors today are often discharged home within a few days and can be back to work in a few weeks, and many return to a normal life.
'I almost regret I don't have a mark to show'
Four years ago Tim McEown, 52, was at home when he suffered a heart attack. Tim was rushed to the hospital, had stents inserted in his heart arteries through a three-quarter inch incision in his wrist and felt immediately better. From the time the ambulance arrived to the surgery being completed was less than an hour and a half, and Tim was home three days later.
"The contrast between my heart attack and my father's triple bypass more than 20 years ago could not be more profound," says Tim. "His surgery was invasive and traumatic while my experience, incredible as it may seem, left no more of a mark than having my blood taken. My dad was in hospital for more than a week and he was on the table for several hours. I was out of surgery in less than 70 minutes and home in three days. I almost regret I don't have a mark to show for my near-death experience whereas Dad had his chest spread wide open and the scars to prove it."
Research into a healthier future – we can get there from here
What Canadians say:
When asked how important research is to our heart health, 98 per cent of Canadians polled say they feel it is somewhat or very important.
When asked to identify the top three factors that could improve heart health, a large majority specified healthier lifestyle choices as most important. The other two most popular choices were more information to help manage risk factors, including telephone hotlines and other types of support, and better diagnostic tests and tools.
Canadians identified the top priorities for heart health research as:
What the experts say:
The experts interviewed by the Foundation agree. Dr. Paul Dorian points to research as the best hope for identifying how to help Canadians make healthy changes. "We need a better understanding around how to change behaviour across the population. Many of the diseases we treat are in theory preventable and by activities that do not require a doctor."
The experts identified a number of exciting research possibilities for the future, which could have a major impact on continuing to improve the heart health of Canadians:
Restoring function to damaged hearts. Heart failure is on the rise as more people survive heart attacks and other acute heart conditions. As people with damaged hearts are living longer, they become more susceptible to heart failure. Work continues into finding new ways to repair damaged hearts by repairing muscle using stem cells, and other therapies to stop cells from dying or to regenerate new cells.
Predicting the future. Imagine a world where the chances of developing heart disease can be predicted. Work is being done to identify genetic markers that will reveal which genes predispose a person to cardiovascular disease – information that could help stop the disease before onset or halt its progression. Breaking down the DNA code could help explain why heart disease runs in families, and will help develop the individualized drug treatments of tomorrow.
Putting knowledge into action. Knowledge translation is an area that holds immense potential of further progress in heart health. It involves sharing information with all the right players, and using information to inform decisions about prevention, care, treatment, rehabilitation, and creating the systems and policies to support this. "Tobacco control is a great example of translating evidence," says Dr. Scott Lear.
Promoting recovery. With more Canadians surviving and living with the effects of cardiovascular disease, more research is needed to support them to make the best recoveries possible and improve quality of life.
Creating healthy public policy. Research is the basis for important policy decisions that affect the population – for example, policies around building neighbourhoods that support physical activity, availability of healthy food and healthy eating through nutrition labelling and smoke-free policies.
Quick stats – Canada
Read the full report here www.heartandstroke.ca/heartreport.
*The poll was conducted by Environics Research Group by telephone with 2,006 Canadians in November 2014
The Heart and Stroke Foundation's mission is to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery. A volunteer-based health charity, we strive to tangibly improve the health of every Canadian family, every day. Healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke. Together we will make it happen. heartandstroke.ca
SOURCE Heart and Stroke Foundation
Video with caption: "Video: The race to save lives starts with research.". Video available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDrhBn4TfF0
Image with caption: "One in two Canadians has been touched by heart disease. (CNW Group/CNW Enriched News Releases)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20150203_C8091_PHOTO_EN_11758.jpg
Image with caption: "98% of Canadians feel research is important. (CNW Group/CNW Enriched News Releases)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20150203_C8091_PHOTO_EN_11759.jpg
Image with caption: "Research milestones that matter. (CNW Group/CNW Enriched News Releases)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20150203_C8091_PHOTO_EN_11760.jpg
Image with caption: "Tim McEown: “I almost regret I don’t have a mark to show.” (CNW Group/CNW Enriched News Releases)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20150203_C8091_PHOTO_EN_11761.jpg
Image with caption: "The story of Carly Dohey: “20 years ago, we would have lost her.” (CNW Group/CNW Enriched News Releases)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20150203_C8091_PHOTO_EN_11762.jpg
Image with caption: "Sandra Thornton: “Open-heart surgery is one of the most profound experiences.” (CNW Group/CNW Enriched News Releases)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20150203_C8091_PHOTO_EN_11763.jpg
Audio with caption: "How to reduce your risk of heart attack.". Audio available at: http://stream1.newswire.ca/media/2015/02/03/20150203_C8091_AUDIO_EN_11764.mp3
For further information: For interviews with one of the cardiovascular experts or with a survivor spokesperson please contact: Media Contact: Stephanie Lawrence, [email protected], 613.691.4022
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