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Canadians are being hit hard with heart disease

Harold Mandel's picture
Checking blood pressure

There has been a lot of credible press hype about heart disease being a number 1 killer of Americans. News that heart disease is also a serious problem in Canada raises lifestyle and nutritional patterns shared in the western world as being worth considering as an explanation for this mutual problem of high heart disease rates in Canada and the United States. In order to begin cutting back on the high rates of disability and premature deaths associated with heart disease it helps to investigate where people are hit hardest with heart disease and why.

Researchers developed the Cardiovascular Health in Ambulatory Care Research Team (CANHEART) health index in order to fully examine the cardiovascular health of Canadians, reports the Canadian Medical Association. The researchers analyzed trends in health behaviors and factors in order to monitor the cardiovascular health of the Canadian population.

Physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption was observed to increase and smoking decreased among Canadian adults during the course of this study. There was an increase in the prevalence of being overweight and obesity, hypertension and diabetes. From the years 2009–2010, 9.4 percent of Canadian adults were found to be in ideal cardiovascular health, 53.3 percent were found to be in intermediate cardiovascular health, and 37.3 percent were found to be in poor cardiovascular health.

There were twice as many women as men in ideal cardiovascular health. In youth, there was a decrease in prevalence of smoking, but an increase in prevalence of being overweight and obese. From 2009–2010, 16.6 percent of Canadian youth were found to be in ideal cardiovascular health,
33.7 percent were found to be in intermediate health, and 49.7 percent were found to be in poor cardiovascular health.

The researchers concluded less than 1 in 10 Canadian adults and 1 in 5 Canadian youth were in ideal cardiovascular health between the years of 2003 to 2011. It was decided that there is a need for intensive health promotion activities aimed at meeting the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada's goal of improving the cardiovascular health of Canadians by 10% by the year 2020 as measured by the CANHEART health index.

The facts have confirmed that less than 1 in 10 Canadians are in ideal cardiovascular health, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal. In Canada cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke, is ranked as the second leading cause of death. Senior research author Dr. Jack Tu has said, "A large proportion of Canadians are in poor cardiovascular health, and the overall trend has not changed in the past decade." Dr. Tu says there is a critical need to improve the heart health of Canadians.

The Canadian researchers developed the Cardiovascular Health in Ambulatory Care Research Team (CANHEART) health index, to help understand Canadians' level of heart health. This index measures the ideal health behaviors and factors for optimal heart health. The researchers investigated data on 464,883 people who were 12 years of age and older who participated in the Canadian Community Health Survey. In this survey people answered questions dealing with their health, health activities and their use of health care services between 2003 and 2011.

The CANHEART index investigated six ideal heart health behaviors and factors, including:

1: Smoking: nonsmoker or former smoker who quit smoking more than a year ago in adults; never tried smoking or never smoked a whole cigarette in their lives for youth

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2: Overweight/obesity: having a body mass index less than 25

3: Physical activity: for adults, walking at least 30 minutes daily; for youth, at least 1 hour of walking or 20 minutes running/jogging daily

4: Fruit and vegetable consumption: eating fruit and vegtables at least five times a day

5: Hypertension: not having high blood pressure

6: Diabetes: not having diabetes

Eating foods high in fiber, such as oatmeal and fruits, strengthen your heart, as I have reported upon in another article for EmaxHealth.

Some good news from the study was that over the course of the study more people were found to be eating fruits and vegetables at least five or more times a day, and there was a trend towards increasing physical activity by about 0.5 percent each year. Smoking was found to decrease each year. On the negative side of the findings it was observed that there were increasing trends of being overweight and obese, hypertension and diabetes in adults and being overweight and obese in youth.

Women overall were found to have better heart health than men and women were three times more likely to be in ideal heart health between the ages of 40 and 49 years than were men. Greater than one-third, or 37.3 percent, of Canadian adults were found to be in poor cardiovascular health. Only 9.4 percent of Canadians were found to be in ideal cardiovascular health. Among Canadian youth, about half, or 49.7 percent, were found to be in poor cardiovascular health with just 16.6 percent of Canadian youth in ideal cardiovascular health. It was therefore observed that as people aged, heart health decreased. This may be explained by the observation that with age there was weight gain and greater development of hypertension and diabetes.

Dr. Tu has said that ninety percent of Canadians have at least one heart health risk factor which could be modified by addressing behaviors that can have an affect on cardiac risk. Every seven minutes one life is taken among Canadians from heart disease and stroke, and there is therefore an urgent need to reduce the risk of heart disease in Canadians. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada President Bobbe Wood, has said, "Up to 80% of premature heart disease is preventable. Unfortunately, almost 4 in 10 of us are in poor health. The good news is that by adopting healthy behavior now, many Canadians can considerably reduce the effects of heart disease and stroke."

I have observed the dramatic increase in problems dealing with being overweight and obese among Americans, which is therefore a serious heart health risk factor which is shared with Canadians. It appears the heavy handed marketing of unhealthy food and sugary drinks may have a lot to do with this problem in both countries. Furthermore, with the advent of the Internet revolution, it appears likely more Americans and Canadians are spending more time in front of their computers and less time outside taking a walk or a bike ride. This apparent trend towards more sedentary lifestyles, which is also seen among our youth, creates a potentially serious risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Furthermore, in spite of more aggressive anti-smoking campaigns than ever before, far too many Americans and Canadians are hooked to cigarettes and are spending their hard earned money on
this poison. Smoking is a deadly risk factor for heart disease. I suggest Americans, Canadians and other people worldwide take notice of the high rates of heart disease which are shared among our countries and determine ways to lower the critical risk factors which we share with each other. Joining the fight against heart disease and stroke can help you live longer, as I have reported in a separate article for EmaxHealth.