"Is Your City AO-K?" Report Card Grades Vancouverites

    - Residents still have much to learn about the health risks associated
    with abdominal obesity -

    VANCOUVER, June 12 /CNW/ - Are Vancouverites "AO-K"? A new Vancouver
report card released today by the Canadian Obesity Network reveals that
residents are barely making the grade when it comes to making the link between
abdominal obesity - excess fat around the midsection - and the increased risk
for heart disease and diabetes. Only 25 and 22 per cent respectively ranked
"excess fat around the midsection" as a risk factor for developing these
diseases. The report card was based on surveys conducted in six cities across
the country - including Edmonton, Calgary, Hamilton, Ottawa and Montréal. In
total, close to 5,000 Canadians were polled to assess their awareness,
attitudes and behaviours in relation to weight issues and abdominal obesity.
    Although the Vancouver report card notes that residents generally
recognize obesity as a health risk, close to half of those polled are still
unaware that the location of fat on the body makes a difference. Of the 830
people polled, 40 per cent stated that fat around the hips/buttocks and fat
around the midsection pose an equal health risk for developing heart disease
or diabetes. On the flip side, 59 per cent correctly stated that abdominal fat
poses a greater risk to health than fat around the hips and buttocks. Research
has shown it is abdominal fat, most easily assessed by measuring waist
circumference, that can significantly increase an individual's risk of chronic
disease, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
    When Vancouver respondents were asked to identify "at-risk" waist sizes,
only 18 per cent cited 102 cm as the waist size above which a man would be at
greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and only five
per cent cited 88 cm as the cut-off point for women. While these cut-offs have
been used in recent years by physicians and researchers to measure their
patients' risk, the recently-published Canadian guidelines on obesity proposed
even lower cut-off points, based on the recommendations of the International
Diabetes Federation (IDF). The IDF cut-offs, which take ethnicity into
account, generally recommend 94 cm for men and 80 cm for women.
    "The confusion around these numbers tells us that a lot of education
still needs to be done," says Dr. Arya Sharma, Scientific Director, Canadian
Obesity Network, and Canada Research Chair for Cardiovascular Obesity Research
and Management, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. "What is also
disconcerting about the report card is that most Vancouver residents are
underestimating their personal risk of developing heart disease and diabetes."
    While respondents tend to recognize the health risks generally associated
with being overweight, few acknowledge that the risks apply to them
personally. When asked about the level of risk that overweight people have for
developing heart disease, 87 per cent of overweight respondents felt that
overweight individuals were "extremely" or "very much" at risk. When looking
at their own risk, however, only 11 per cent of overweight respondents felt
that they themselves were "extremely" or "very much" at risk of developing
heart disease. Similar trends were noticed when asked about risk for diabetes,
high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
    "It is encouraging to see that Vancouverites are recognizing the
importance of a healthy lifestyle in preventing cardiovascular disease," says
Dr. Ali Zentner, Cardiac Risk Specialist. "What is worrisome, though, is how
few people know or recognize their own level of risk. We need to continue to
emphasize that Canadians should be proactive in educating themselves about
their own personal risk for heart disease and stroke."
    "Cardiac risk starts with the individual and I encourage all
Vancouverites to begin a dialogue with their physicians about their own risk.
We need to start on an individual level if we are ever to make an impact at a
national level. I think Vancouver has the potential to become a model of a
truly healthy Canadian city."
    The survey divided respondents into three medically-recognized weight
categories - normal/underweight (43 per cent of respondents), overweight (33
per cent of respondents) and obese (24 per cent of respondents) - to determine
how individuals in these groups perceive and assess risks related to being
overweight or obese.(i)
    According to Dr. Zentner, there is some encouraging news coming out of
the survey. Vancouver residents, she says, deserve high marks for recognizing
that losing inches from their waist can contribute to improved health, and
that it is not just a cosmetic issue. Over three-quarters (77 per cent) of
overweight/obese individuals acknowledged that if given a choice to lose
inches from anywhere on their body, they would choose their waist. When asked
why, 51 per cent gave reasons associated with their health - e.g., "to be more
healthy" (30 per cent) and "to reduce the risk of getting a serious medical
condition" (10 per cent). Conversely, only 27 per cent cited that they would
want to reduce their waistline for appearance reasons.
    Although 70 per cent of overweight individuals believe that a doctor can
help them lose weight if they really want to, few overweight respondents
actively sought counsel from a physician in the past year. Only 32 per cent of
overweight respondents had spoken with their physician about their weight.
Among these individuals, only 41 per cent said that their physician initiated
the first discussion about their weight. Furthermore, only 14 per cent of
overweight/obese Vancouver residents stated that a physician had measured
their waist in the past year.
    "We hope that this situation will change now that more physicians are
recognizing the dangers of being abdominally obese," says Dr. Sharma.
"Evidence is mounting that abdominal obesity is closely associated with a
cluster of other risk factors that have the potential to lead to serious
long-term health consequences. Family physicians can play an important role in
screening their at-risk patients and initiating a discussion about the
importance of losing abdominal fat."
    Dr. Sharma notes that in addition to paying attention to traditional risk
factors such as blood pressure, LDL (the bad) cholesterol and blood sugar,
doctors need to take into consideration emerging risk factors that tend to
cluster together such as abdominal obesity, high triglycerides (a form of fat
in the blood) and low levels of HDL (the good) cholesterol.
    "We need to look at the complete picture," he says, "and that picture is
larger than it used to be."

    About abdominal obesity in Canada

    Another recent study revealed that nearly 50 per cent of Canadians have
abdominal or central obesity.(ii) Every increase in waist circumference of
14 cm for men and 14.9 cm for women raises a person's likelihood of developing
cardiovascular disease by up to 40 per cent.(iii) According to the Canadian
Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management and Prevention of Obesity in
Adults and Children, published in April 2007 in the Canadian Medical
Association Journal, a healthy waist size is generally considered to be 80 cm
for women, and 94 cm for men.

    About the survey

    The "Is Your City AO-K?" report card results are based on an Ipsos-Reid
survey conducted from March 23 to April 9, 2007 among 4,990 men and women in
six Canadian cities: Vancouver (830), Edmonton (797), Calgary (863), Ottawa
(862), Hamilton (804) and Montréal (834). The survey, commissioned by
sanofi-aventis Canada Inc., in partnership with the Canadian Obesity Network,
examined the knowledge and behaviours of Canadians relating to the health
risks associated with being overweight. Specifically, the survey examined
people's perceptions about excess body fat and abdominal obesity, as well as
the motivations and barriers associated with losing weight.
    For the survey, a randomly representative sample of individuals within
each city was interviewed from the Ipsos Reid on-line consumer panel. With a
sample of this size, results for each city are considered accurate to within
+/-3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20 of what they would have been had
the entire adult population within each city been polled. The margin of error
would be larger for specific sub-groups within the survey population. These
data are weighted to ensure that the sample's age/sex composition reflects
that of the actual adult population in each city according to Census data.

    About the Canadian Obesity Network

    The Canadian Obesity Network (CON) links obesity researchers with the
private sector, practitioners, and policy-makers to foster innovations and
investments toward cost-effective solutions to prevent, control and treat
    CON is funded by the federal Networks of Centres of Excellence Program
(www.nce.gc.ca), a joint initiative of the Natural Sciences and Engineering
Research Council, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Social
Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Industry Canada. For more
information, please visit www.obesitynetwork.ca.

    Note to Editors: B-roll will be available at the following
    Date:           Tuesday, June 12, 2007

    Time:           7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m.
                    11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

    Coordinates:    Anik F2 C
                    Transponder 3B
                    Audio subcarrier 6.2 and 6.8
                    Downlink frequency 3820 vertical

    (i)    For the survey, respondents were asked to provide their height and
           weight, from which their body mass index (BMI) was calculated to
           determine which weight category they belonged to: underweight (BMI
           less than 18.5), normal weight (BMI between 18.5 and 24.9),
           overweight (BMI between 25 and 29.9) and obese (BMI greater than
    (ii)   Haffner, S, on behalf of the IDEA Executive Committee. Waist
           Circumference and Body Mass Index are both independently
           associated with cardiovascular disease. The International Day for
           the Evaluation of Abdominal Obesity (IDEA) Survey. Abstract
           presentation at the 55th Annual Scientific Session of the American
           College of Cardiology, 2006.
    (iii)  Ibid.

For further information:

For further information: Katie Lofquist, Manning Selvage & Lee, (416)

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