A Perfect Storm
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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. Adding to the perfect storm, troubling disparities persist between provinces and territories. Report continues below the map.

HEART AND STROKE FOUNDATION REPORT WARNS: A "PERFECT STORM" OF HEART DISEASE LOOMING ON OUR HORIZON

"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 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 young and old skyrocketed by 77%, diabetes by 45% and obesity by 18% - all major risk factors for heart disease. For example, among those 35 to 49 years of age, the prevalence of high blood pressure increased 127%, diabetes by 64% and obesity by 20%.

The new at-risk populations include:

  • Young Canadian adults in their 20s and 30s
  • Women between the ages of 35 and 45
  • Boomers (50-64)
  • Some of Canada's growing ethno-cultural communities
  • Aboriginal Peoples, who are experiencing a full-blown cardiovascular crisis

Adding to the perfect storm, troubling disparities persist between provinces and territories. 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. With respect to smoking, all the provinces and territories achieve a passing grade, except Nunavut.

"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."

Addressing the Challenges/Weathering the Storm
Canadians recognize that 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 automatic defibrillators are available in public places.

For more information, view our full report.