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The Heart and Stroke Foundation's 2011 Annual Report on Canadians' Health warns that nine out of 10 Canadians are jeopardizing the quality and length of their lives. The Foundation found that many Canadians are in denial about their risk factors for heart disease such as being overweight and being physically inactive – risk factors they can manage and control.

Each year, about 250,000 potential years of life are lost in Canada due to cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and other chronic heart-related conditions.

- Watch and hear what our experts have to say on Heart&Stroke TV.
- Download My Heart&Stroke Health App™.
- See the chart on the cardiovascular risk factors in Canada and map by province.

"Canadians know what to do to live healthier, longer lives. But there's a huge disconnect between what we think we are doing to address our risk factors and reality," says Dr. Beth Abramson, cardiologist and spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. "The fact is that we're not managing some of the most common and deadly cardiovascular risk factors as well as we think we are. We Canadians are living with a false sense of security that could be fatal."

Is there an app for that? Yes. The Foundation has launched My Heart&Stroke Health App™, a free new mobile App to help Canadians take control of their risks. Download the app at heartandstroke.ca/mobileapps or find it at your iPhone, Blackberry or Android app stores under Health & Fitness. If you don't have a mobile phone, you can take the risk assessment online at heartandstroke.ca/risk

According to a new Heart and Stroke Foundation poll, Canadians are aware of the importance of addressing their risk factors. However, the Foundation poll also showed that Canadians have a false sense of security that is cutting their lives short. They overestimate their own healthy behaviours:

  • Almost 90 per cent of Canadians rate themselves as healthy. The reality is that nine out of 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
  • Only about a third said they are not physically active or don't eat a minimum of five servings of vegetables and fruit per day. The reality is about half of Canadians don't meet the physical activity and healthy eating recommendations.
  • Eighteen per cent of Canadian adults say they are obese. The reality is that almost one quarter – 25 per cent – of Canadian adults are obese.

Cardiovascular risk factors in Canadians: estimates, assessment and impact

Risk Factor Perception
(Canadians' self-reported behaviours)
Reality
(Best estimate of real prevalence)
Canadians in
denial of
relevance?
No assessment by
healthcare provider
Impact on life
expectancy
Physically inactive in leisure time 31%* 48%** Yes 44% * -3.6 years
Eating vegetables & fruit <5+/day 39%* 54%** Yes 52%* -1.3 years
Obesity (age 18+) 18%** 24%*** Yes Weight: 40%*
Waist measurement: 67%*
-4.0 years
High blood pressure 17%** 19%*** Yes 18%* -2.4 years
Smoking 23%* 20%** No 37%* -13.9 years

* HSF poll of 2000 Canadians conducted December, 2010; margin of error is +2.2%, 19 times out of 20
** Self-reported data from the 2009 Canadian Community Health Survey
*** Results from the 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey

Click the hearts on the map to see the cardiovascular risk factors for your province.

Add more quality years to your life
"It's not just years of life that are at stake," explains Dr. Abramson. "It's healthy quality years that can be gained. By being physically active, you gain close to four years of life – three of those free of heart disease and stroke."

"Living longer isn't much fun if you don't have your health," she adds. Making healthier choices and controlling the modifiable risk factors are key to extending quality years of life.

Time to take action
“Reducing heart disease risks is everyone's responsibility,” says Linda Piazza, director of health policy for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. This includes the public, physicians, health organizations and government.

Canadians tend to expect that their healthcare professionals will inform them about their heart disease risks, but the Foundation poll found that many healthcare professionals didn't discuss or measure some of the important risk factors with their patients.

According to the poll, eight in 10 Canadians reported that their healthcare professional had measured their blood pressure within the past year, however only three out of 10 patients had their waists measured. For more information on how to measure your waist, go to heartandstroke.ca/healthywaists.

The poll also found that five out of 10 Canadians had not been asked by their healthcare provider about their diet or family history of heart disease or stroke. Read the full report. Says Dr. Abramson. "Both patients and physicians have a responsibility to discuss the prevention and management of chronic disease by raising these questions."

What the Heart and Stroke Foundation is doing to help Canadians
Knowing that Canadians need help in improving their heart health, the Foundation has been hard at work developing free e-tools, health promotion initiatives and programs. "We know how to prevent heart disease and stroke. Our goal is to take advantage of this knowledge to help Canadians avoid a decline into illness," says Dr. Marco di Buono, Heart and Stroke Foundation director of research.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation is helping Canadians by:

To Canadians:
Don't cut your life short. Be your own health advocate: