Fewer than one in ten Canadians in ideal cardiovascular health

December 23, 2013

Fewer than 1 in 10 adult Canadians is in ideal cardiovascular health, according to the new CANHEART health index developed to measure heart health published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke, is the second leading cause of death in Canada.

"A large proportion of Canadians are in poor cardiovascular health, and the overall trend has not changed in the past decade," says senior author Dr. Jack Tu, from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and the Schulich Heart Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ontario. "There is an urgent need to improve the of Canadians."

To understand Canadians' level of heart health, a team of researchers developed the Cardiovascular Health in Ambulatory Care Research Team (CANHEART) health index, which measures the ideal health behaviours and factors for optimal heart health. They looked at data on 464 883 people aged 12 years and older who participated in the Canadian Community Health Survey in which people answered questions about their health, health activities and use of between 2003 and 2011.

Participants were categorized into two groups: adults aged 20 years and older and youth aged 12 to 19 years. Adults received scores ranging from worst (0) to best (6), whereas youth received scores between 0 and 4 (best). Ideal heart health was defined as a score of either 6 on the adult index or 4 on the youth index.

The CANHEART index looked at six ideal heart health behaviours and factors:

  • Smoking: nonsmoker or former smoker who quit more than a year ago in adults; never tried smoking or never smoked a whole cigarette for youth
  • Overweight/obesity: body mass index less than 25; age- and sex-specific cut-offs for youth
  • Physical activity: for adults, at least 30 minutes of walking per day; for youth, at least 1 hour of walking or 20 minutes running/jogging each day
  • Fruit and vegetable consumption: at least five times a day
  • Hypertension: no high blood pressure
  • Diabetes: no diabetes

The good news? Over the study period, more people were eating fruits and vegetables at least five or more times a day, there was a trend toward increasing physical activity (about 0.5% each year), and smoking decreased each year. The bad news? Increasing trends of overweight/obesity, hypertension and diabetes in adults and overweight/obesity in youth.

Women had better heart health scores than men and were three times more likely to be in ideal heart health between the ages of 40 and 49 years than men. More than one-third (37.3%) of Canadian adults were in poor cardiovascular health, and only 9.4% were in ideal cardiovascular health. For youth, about half (49.7%) were in poor cardiovascular health with only 16.6% in ideal cardiovascular health.

As people aged, heart health decreased, perhaps because of weight gain and development of hypertension and diabetes as reported in previous studies.

"Ninety per cent of Canadians have at least one heart health risk factor that could be modified by addressing behaviours that can affect cardiac risk," says Dr. Tu.

People in British Columbia scored the highest; the lowest scores, denoting the poorest cardiovascular health, were in Newfoundland and Labrador on the east coast. The trend toward poorer heart health was consistent from west to east.

Reducing Canadians' risk is more urgent than ever, because heart disease and stroke still take one life every seven minutes in Canada.

"Up to 80% of premature heart disease is preventable," says Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada President Bobbe Wood. "Unfortunately, almost 4 in 10 of us are in poor health. The good news is that by adopting healthy behaviour now, many Canadians can considerably reduce the effects of heart disease and stroke."

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada will use the CANHEART index to track and measure progress toward its impact goal to significantly improve the health of Canadians by decreasing their risk factors for heart disease and stroke by 10% by the year 2020. This will complement the foundation's impact goal to reduce Canadians' rate of death from and stroke by 25% by 2020.

"The CANHEART index will be a useful tool for members of the general public, clinicians, researchers, chronic disease organizations and decision-makers interested in monitoring and reducing the burden of chronic noncommunicable diseases in Canada," the authors conclude.

Explore further: Burden of heart disease, stroke quantified in united states

More information: www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.131358

Related Stories

Burden of heart disease, stroke quantified in united states

December 23, 2013
(HealthDay)—The burden of heart disease and stroke is considerable in the United States, according to a American Heart Association Statistical Update published online Dec. 18 in Circulation.

Americans' heart health varies significantly from state to state

January 4, 2013
Americans' cardiovascular health varies greatly from state to state, according to new research in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA).

Heart disease and stroke continue to threaten US health

December 18, 2013
Heart disease and stroke remain two of the top killers of Americans and pose a significant threat to millions of others, according to the American Heart Association's Heart Disease and Stroke Statistical Update 2014, published ...

Program helps at-risk family members of patients with heart disease improve their own heart health

November 18, 2013
Family members of patients with heart disease adopted healthier lifestyles and decreased their risk of a cardiovascular event after participating in a program to improve heart health, according to a clinical trial published ...

Increase of just 2,000 steps a day cuts cardiovascular risk by 8 percent in those with high risk of type 2 diabetes

December 19, 2013
A large international study of people with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT; a precursor to diabetes) has found that every additional 2000 steps taken a day over one year—roughly equivalent to 20 min a day of moderately-paced ...

Lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar could halve obesity-related risk of heart disease

November 21, 2013
Controlling blood pressure, serum cholesterol, and blood glucose may substantially reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke associated with being overweight or obese, according to a study from a worldwide research consortium ...

Recommended for you

New molecule may hold the key to triggering the regeneration and repair of damaged heart cells

August 21, 2017
New research has discovered a potential means to trigger damaged heart cells to self-heal. The discovery could lead to groundbreaking forms of treatment for heart diseases. For the first time, researchers have identified ...

Researchers investigate the potential of spider silk protein for engineering artificial heart

August 18, 2017
Ever more people are suffering from cardiac insufficiency, despite significant advances in preventing and minimising damage to the heart. The main cause of reduced cardiac functionality lies in the irreversible loss of cardiac ...

Lasers used to detect risk of heart attack and stroke

August 18, 2017
Patients at risk of heart attacks and strokes may be spotted earlier thanks to a diagnosis tool that uses near-infrared light to identify high-risk arterial plaques, according to research carried out at WMG, University of ...

Cholesterol crystals are sure sign a heart attack may loom

August 17, 2017
A new Michigan State University study on 240 emergency room patients shows just how much of a role a person's cholesterol plays, when in a crystallized state, during a heart attack.

How Gata4 helps mend a broken heart

August 15, 2017
During a heart attack, blood stops flowing into the heart; starved for oxygen, part of the heart muscle dies. The heart muscle does not regenerate; instead it replaces dead tissue with scars made of cells called fibroblasts ...

Injectable tissue patch could help repair damaged organs

August 14, 2017
A team of U of T Engineering researchers is mending broken hearts with an expanding tissue bandage a little smaller than a postage stamp.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.