Heart and Stroke Foundation report warns: A "Perfect storm" of heart disease
looming on our horizon

TORONTO, Jan. 25 /CNW Telbec/ - The Heart and Stroke Foundation's 2010 Annual Report on Canadians' Health warns that a "perfect storm" of risk factors and demographic changes are converging to create an unprecedented burden on Canada's fragmented system of cardiovascular care, and no Canadian young or old will be left unaffected.

"In a very short time, the face of heart disease in Canada has changed to include groups that have historically been immune to the threats of heart disease," says Dr. Beth Abramson, cardiologist and spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. "But the combination of new groups at-risk of heart disease and the explosion of Canadians indulging in unhealthy habits across Canada have accelerated the impact of these threats, which are now converging and erasing the progress we've made in treating heart disease over the last 50 years."

The signs of this impending crisis are clearly evident. Between 1994 and 2005, rates of high blood pressure among Canadians skyrocketed by 77%, diabetes by 45% and obesity by 18% - affecting both younger and older Canadians. Moreover, even younger age groups are experiencing increases in risk: among those 35 to 49 years of age, for example, the prevalence of high blood pressure increased 127%, diabetes by 64% and obesity by 20% - all major risk factors for heart disease.

"Up to this point we've had a patchwork quilt of prevention and treatment initiatives aimed at addressing some, but not all, of the risk factors affecting Canadians," says Stephen Samis, Director of Health Policy, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. "The magnitude of this problem has become so large, the only way forward is to implement a comprehensive, Canadian heart-health strategy that focuses on at-risk and disadvantaged populations, addresses the disparities between provinces and territories and integrates Canada's fragmented system of cardiac care services."

The at-risk and disadvantaged populations in Canada include: the unprecedented growing number of young Canadian adults who are obese and overweight; the largest cohort of Boomers (50-64 years) in Canada's history entering a stage where they are at a higher risk for heart disease; our Aboriginal peoples who are experiencing a full-blown cardiovascular crisis; more women entering their young adult years at higher risk for heart disease, which could overwhelm the healthcare system with an entire new generation of patients; and, some of Canada's fastest growing ethno-cultural communities who are pre-disposed to a heavier burden of risk factors and heart disease.

The Changing Face of Canada

"The face of heart disease has changed," says Dr. Marco Di Buono, Director of Research, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. "We can no longer operate under the current stereotypes. In this country, heart disease is not just a disease affecting older, Caucasian males."

At Risk: Young Canadian Adults

Young people are beginning their adult lives with multiple risk factors for heart disease. Over the past 15 years, Canada has seen significant increases in overweight and obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. It used to be thought that like heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure were "diseases of aging." These increases will translate into an explosion of heart disease in the next generation.

"There are more than 250,000 young Canadians in their 20s and 30s with high blood pressure. That's something we could have never imagined a decade ago. It's almost a doubling in 15 years," says Stephen Samis. "The real tragedy is that this is largely preventable."

"Canada is truly at a crossroads," says Dr. Abramson. "As a society we need to decide if we are going to invest in making our society more heart healthy so we can reduce our future risk, or would we rather continue to pay for a healthcare system overwhelmed by cardiac patients."

    Self Reported Heart-Health Risk Factors, 2007/2008

    Heart-Health          20-34 years       35-44 years        45-64 years
    Risk Factors            Number             Number             Number
    (men and women)    (% of age group)   (% of age group)   (% of age group)
     inactivity       3,073,677 (47.0%)  2,536,847 (52.9%)  4,634,481 (52.8%)
    Overweight/obese  2,520,852 (40.5%)  2,402,101 (51.5%)  5,005,943 (58.2%)
    Smoking           1,922,684 (29.0%)  1,240,458 (25.6%)  2,062,001 (23.1%)
    High blood
     pressure           164,431 ( 2.5%)    343,638 ( 7.1%)  2,043,771 (22.9%)
    Diabetes             66,430 ( 1.0%)    130,563 ( 2.7%)    745,820 ( 8.3%)
    Source: 2007/08 Canadian Community Health Survey

Among those 20 to 34 years of age, 3 million are inactive, 2.5 million obese, 2 million smoke, 164,000 have high blood pressure and 66,000 have diabetes. "It's disturbing to see younger Canadians with so many risk factors for heart disease and stroke," says Dr. Abramson.

Although Canadians are slightly more active, more Canadians are becoming overweight and obese, beginning in childhood and carrying over to their 20s and 30s. Moreover, current rates of overweight and obesity are based upon self-reported data. When people are measured directly, the prevalence of overweight is typically much higher.

Overall smoking rates are down, but it is disturbing that 20-year-olds continue to be Canada's heaviest smokers. They are setting themselves up for poor long-term health effects - it can take up to 15 years to reverse the damage caused by smoking. "We know that if a young person comes into hospital with a heart attack, they are more likely to be a smoker," says Dr. Abramson.

At Risk: The Aging Population - Canadian Boomers and Beyond

In 2006, the Heart and Stroke Foundation warned about Boomers' poor heart health. Four years later, one in five adults 50 to 64 years of age has two or more of the major risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and obesity.

"For decades the Heart and Stroke Foundation has funded innovative, life-saving research delaying premature death from heart disease," says Dr. Di Buono. "However, the large number of Boomers who need to prevent and manage their risk factors will put great strain on the healthcare system and turn back the clock on the gains we have made."

Further, by 2021 the number of older Canadians 65+ at higher risk for heart disease because of their age will increase to:

    -   Almost one in four residents of Newfoundland and Labrador
    -   One in five in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick,
        Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia
    -   One in six in Alberta and Yukon
    -   One in 10 in the Northwest Territories (a 130% increase)
    -   One in 20 in Nunavut (a 77% increase since 2005)

Anticipated Growth in the Canadian Population Ages 65 and Over,

2005 to 2021

                      % of population ages 65 and over
                          2005    2021    Relative
    CANADA                13.1    17.8       35.9%
    NFLD/LAB              13.1    23.1       76.3%
    PEI                   14.1    21.3       51.1%
    NS                    14.2    22.0       54.9%
    NB                    13.9    22.2       59.7%
    QUE                   13.8    20.4       47.8%
    ONT                   12.8    17.6       37.5%
    MAN                   13.5    17.6       30.4%
    SASK                  14.8    19.7       33.1%
    ALTA                  10.5    16.3       55.2%
    BC                    13.8    19.6       42.0%
    YUKON                  6.9    15.9      130.4%
    NWT                    4.7    10.8      129.8%
    NUNAVUT                2.6     4.6       76.9%
    Source: Statistics Canada

At Risk: Canada's Aboriginal peoples

Current data suggest that on-reserve First Nations people have far worse overall cardiovascular health than the general Canadian population, and it is suspected that off-reserve Aboriginal peoples are similarly affected.

"This is an embarrassment for all Canadians," says Stephen Samis. "Our Aboriginal peoples are experiencing a cardiovascular crisis. Plus, there are still significant gaps in our knowledge and management of Aboriginal heart health."

With the exception of Nunavut (where 84% of the population is, and will remain, Aboriginal), between now and 2017, the provinces and territories will experience dramatic increases in their Aboriginal populations. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Aboriginal population will increase by 60%; other regions expected to experience significant growth include: Saskatchewan (51%), the Yukon (48%) and PEI (46%). By 2017, approximately one in five residents of Saskatchewan and Manitoba will be Aboriginal. This explosion will create significant challenges for heart-health services, particularly in rural, northern and remote areas.

Anticipated Growth in Canada's Aboriginal Population, 2001 to 2017

                    % of population that is Aboriginal
                          2001    2017    Relative
    CANADA                 3.4     4.1       20.6%
    NFLD/LAB               3.7     5.9       59.5%
    PEI                    1.1     1.6       45.5%
    NS                     1.9     2.8       47.4%
    NB                     2.4     3.0       25.0%
    QUE                    1.3     1.6       23.1%
    ONT                    1.8     1.9        5.6%
    MAN                   13.8    18.4       33.3%
    SASK                  13.8    20.8       50.7%
    ALTA                   5.5     6.3       14.5%
    BC                     4.4     4.8        9.1%
    YUKON                 23.8    35.3       48.3%
    NWT                   50.5    57.7       14.3%
    NUNAVUT               84.3    83.6       -0.8%
    Source: Statistics Canada

At Risk: Ethnic populations

Research has shown that Canadians of South Asian and African-Caribbean descent are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke because of higher rates of high blood pressure and diabetes. South Asian Canadians may be at particular risk as evidence suggests they may develop heart disease 5 to 10 years earlier than other ethnic groups. Provinces that currently have significant visible minority populations, such as B.C. (25%), Ontario (23%) and Alberta (14%) -- and in particular major metropolitan, urban centres such as Vancouver (42%), Toronto (43%), Montreal (17%), and Calgary (22%) - are going to face a tremendous growth in the need for cardiovascular prevention and care as these growing populations age.

"Many of Canada's ethno-cultural communities are at higher risk for heart disease and have unique linguistic and cultural challenges to overcome with respect to improving their heart health. We need to address these challenges to ensure the long-term heart health of all Canadians, including new immigrants coming to this country," says Dr. Abramson.

At Risk: Women

Women are generally protected from developing heart disease until mid-life. But ultimately, heart disease is an equal-opportunity killer. More women in Canada die from heart disease and stroke every year than all forms of cancer combined. Unfortunately, young Canadian women are setting themselves up for a lifetime of poor heart health and laying the foundation for heart disease. Approximately 1.7 million women aged 20 to 34 are inactive. Almost 1 million are overweight. More than 800,000 smoke.

"These are the women we'll see in cardiologists' offices within this decade," says Dr. Abramson. "It shouldn't end that way, but it will. As a society, we need to support women at all ages in reducing their risk of heart disease."

Self Reported Heart-Health Risk Factors, 2007/2008

                     Women 20-34 years  Women 35-44 years  Women 45-64 years
    Heart-Health           Number             Number            Number
     Risk Factors    (% of age group)   (% of age group)   (% of age group)
     inactive       1,651,824 (50.9%)  1,307,535 (54.1%)  2,406,806 (54.0%)
     or obese         927,058 (31.2%)    918,841 (40.0%)  2,189,341 (50.8%)
    Daily or
     smokers          807,238 (24.7%)    527,987 (21.7%)    952,460 (21.1%)
    High blood
     pressure          65,239 ( 2.0%)    153,917  (6.3%)  1,016,475 (22.5%)
    Diabetes           36,297 ( 1.1%)     59,275  (2.4%)     324,413 (7.2%)
    Source: Canadian Community Health Survey 2007/08

Provincial and Territorial Disparities

Adding to the perfect storm, troubling disparities persist between provinces and territories. Even provinces that rank in the top three in terms of healthy behaviours are still not where they need to be to maintain their future heart health. More than 50% of the population in every province and territory in Canada are at an unhealthy weight. In the majority of the provinces and territories, less than 50% of the population is getting enough physical activity to maintain their health. And only one province - Quebec - has more than 50% of the population eating the recommended amount of vegetables and fruit per day. With respect to smoking, all the provinces and territories achieve a passing grade, except Nunavut.

2007/2008 Ranking of Provinces and Territories on Heart-Health Behaviours

                   Combined                                      Vegetable
    Province        Health                  Physical  Healthy     & Fruit
    or            Behaviours   Smoke-Free   Activity  Weight    Consumption
    Territory        Rank       Rank (%)    Rank (%)  Rank (%)    Rank (%)
    BC              1st          1st         2nd       1st        2nd (tie:
                   (best)       (81.8%)    (53.7%)   (49.7%)        43.4%)
    ALTA            2nd          4th         3rd       5th        2nd (tie:
                                (77.7%)    (53.4%)   (42.9%)        43.4%)
    ONT             3rd          2nd         6th       4th          4th
                               (78.7%)     (48.8%)   (43.6%)      (41.4%)
    QUE             4th          8th      10th (tie:   2nd          1st
                               (75.8%)      45.7%)   (46.8%)      (52.6%)
    Yukon           5th         11th         1st       3rd          7th
                               (68.2%)     (55.4%)   (44.6%)      (38.7%)
    MAN             6th          5th         4th       7th          9th
                               (76.7%)     (51.8%)   (40.4%)      (35.9%)
    PEI             7th          3rd         8th      12th          8th
                               (78.8%)     (47.3%)   (36.5%)      (36.7%)
    SASK            8th         10th        9th        8th          5th (tie:
                               (74.3%)    (46.1%)   (39.2%)        38.8%)
    NS              9th          7th        7th        9th         10th
                               (76.0%)    (47.6%)   (38.4%)       (35.8%)
    NB              10th         6th       12th       10th          5th (tie:
                    (tie)       (76.6%)   (42.7%)   (37.4%)        38.8%)
    NWT             10th        12th        5th       11th         12th
                    (tie)       (64.8%)   (49.3%)   (36.8%)       (24.6%)
    NFLD/LAB        12th         9th       10th (tie  13th         11th
                                (75.1%)    45.7%)   (33.3%)       (30.8%)
    Nunavut         13th        13th       13th        6th         13th
                  (worst)       (42.1%)   (40.5%)   (42.7%)       (24.2%)
    Average:                     78.3%     49.0%      44.4%        43.8%
    Source: Canadian Community Health Survey 2007/2008, age 12+ except for
weight which is age 18+

"This regional variation in heart healthy behavior is a wake-up call for the need to fund a comprehensive Canadian heart health strategy," says Dr. Marco Di Buono.

The numbers speak for themselves. Our experience with tobacco shows we can make a difference with a coordinated Canadian approach. We need to turn our collective attention to the other risk factors facing Canadians.

Addressing the Challenges/Weathering the Storm

Canadians recognize there is a need for action to address the nation's heart health. Eight out of 10 supported a government-funded coordinated, national heart-health strategy, even if it meant cuts to other programs or a tax increase. When asked about specific issues within a national strategy, almost nine out of 10 Canadians pointed to the need to reduce childhood obesity, seven out of 10 cited programs to help people quit smoking and six out of 10 supported both women's heart health programs and the need to ensure automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are available in public places.

    What Do Canadians Think?                           Canadian adults* (%)
    Compared to 10 years ago, the health of
     Canadians is:
        - About the same                                        26%
        - Less healthy                                          45%
    In a national heart-health strategy, priority
     should be given to:
        - Reducing childhood obesity                            86%
        - Helping people to quit smoking                        71%
        - Women's heart health                                  64%
        - Defibrillators in public places                       60%
    Support government funding of a coordinated,                81%
     national heart health strategy even if it
     meant cuts to other programs or a tax increase
    * Source: Heart and Stroke Foundation poll of 2000 Canadians age 18 and
over; results are considered accurate within + 2.2%, 19 times out of 20

"The 2009 Canadian Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan sets out ambitious but achievable targets for the prevention and treatment of heart disease and stroke," says Stephen Samis. To reach those targets, the strategy includes recommendations to:

    -   Create heart-healthy environments.
    -   Help Canadians lead healthier lives.
    -   End the cardiovascular health crisis among Aboriginal/Indigenous
    -   Continue health services reform.
    -   Build knowledge infrastructures to enhance prevention and care.
    -   Develop heart health human resources.

The Government of Canada has funded strategies for combating cancer, diabetes, lung disease and mental health - but there is no federally funded strategy for the number one killer of Canadians: heart disease and stroke. And Canadians agree that we need one for heart health.

"The Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan was released in February 2009, but has yet to receive funding," says Stephen Samis. "To ensure this strategy doesn't sit on the shelf and collect dust, we are calling on the federal government to provide funding for the heart-health strategy."

Call to Action

To the Federal Government:

The Heart and Stroke Foundation calls upon the federal government to fund the comprehensive, coordinated Canadian Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan developed by cardiovascular experts.

Key priorities at this time are:

    1.  Improving the nutritional health of all Canadians and addressing the
        rising rates of obesity by:
        -  Implementing federal trans fat regulations.
        -  Mandating the placement of calorie counts on quick service
           restaurant menu boards.
        -  Standardizing the portion sizes on the Nutrition Facts Panel for
           similar products.
        -  Improving access to affordable, nutritious foods in remote and
           aboriginal communities.
        -  Supporting the Heart and Stroke Foundation and other organizations
           working on childhood obesity.

    2.  Improving cardiovascular awareness and prevention among women and
        reducing care inequities by funding public education initiatives,
        such as the Foundation's Heart Truth campaign.

    3.  Improving our understanding and management of cardiovascular health
        -  Funding the development and dissemination of best evidence-based
           clinical guidelines.
        -  Creating a Canadian multi-site centre in vascular health, to
           improve understanding of all vascular diseases such as heart
           disease and stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, chronic kidney
           disease and common forms of blindness.
        -  Enhancing the cardiovascular measures in the new, federally funded
           Canadian cancer cohort study.

    4.  Developing a multi-year action plan to meet the cardiovascular needs
        of Aboriginal people.

    5.  Increasing the availability of Automated External Defibrillators
        (AEDs) and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training in
        communities across the country, including Aboriginal communities.

    6.  Providing specific strategies to help at-risk and disadvantaged
        populations understand and manage their heart-health risk.

    To Provincial Governments:

    1.  Implement chronic disease prevention and management models to meet
        the cardiovascular needs of Canadians with multiple risk factors.

    2.  Improve access to high-quality, appropriate, coordinated
        cardiovascular care.

    To Canadians:

        -  Be more physically active and eat a healthy diet. Go to
        -  Be aware of your risk factors for heart disease. Take the
           My Heart&Stroke Risk Assessment(TM) at heartandstroke.ca/risk

    Aboriginal Peoples (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) -

    Canadians of South Asian Descent or African Heritage -

    Women - thehearttruth.ca


The Heart and Stroke Foundation, a volunteer-based health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke and reducing their impact through the advancement of research and its application, the promotion of healthy living, and advocacy.

NOTE: This press release constitutes the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Annual Report on Canadians' Health - there is no separate report document.

B-roll is available through CNW Group. For those who want to do a live broadcast, access is readily available. Satellite coordinates: Anik F2 C Transponder 3B Audio subcarrier 6.2 and 6.8

Downlink frequency 3820 vertical.

Journalists may join the Toronto press conference by dialing 416-640-4118 or toll free at 1-877-281-6635 Access Code: 905561 followed by the number sign.

SOURCE Heart and Stroke Foundation

For further information: For further information: Sharon Edwards, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Cell: (416) 937-5307; Elissa Freeman, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Cell: (416) 565-5605; Jane-Diane Fraser, Heart and Stroke Foundation, (613) 569-4361 ext. 273

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