Heart and Stroke Foundation 2011 Report on Canadians' Health Warns: Denial Putting Canadians at High Risk of Cutting Their Lives Short

Is there an App for that? Yes! Foundation launches new mobile App to help Canadians take control of their risks

OTTAWA, February 1, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Heart and Stroke Foundation's 2011 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.

"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."

According to a new Heart and Stroke Foundation poll, Canadians are aware of the importance of addressing their risk factors:

...The poll found that 84 per cent of Canadians know that nine out of 10 adults have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

...Nine out of 10 Canadians polled know that the majority of first-time heart attacks are caused by risk factors that they can control.

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.

"We are overestimating our healthy behaviours and underestimating our tendency to be couch potatoes," says Dr. Abramson.

"It's not just years of life that are at stake," explains Dr. Abramson. "It's healthy quality years that can be gained. For example, 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."

On average, inactivity and obesity can each shave almost four years off a person's expected lifespan, high blood pressure two and a half years, and low vegetable and fruit consumption, 1.3 years.

The Foundation's prescription for a healthy lifestyle and more quality years of life is to manage the risk factors that can be controlled: follow a healthy diet, be physically active, know and control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, maintain a healthy weight, be smoke-free, reduce stress, manage diabetes and limit alcohol consumption. Dr. Abramson also recommends that Canadians ask their healthcare providers to help them reach their goals.

My Heart&Stroke Health App™ helps Canadians take control

To help people become more knowledgeable about their risk factors and support them in starting these important conversations with their healthcare providers, the Heart and Stroke Foundation today launched a free new app to complement its web-based e-tool.

"The My Heart&Stroke Health App™ is designed to give Canadians an overview of their health and health risks, as well as tailored action plans for healthier living," says Heart and Stroke Foundation director of research, Dr. Marco Di Buono. "We recognize that busy people may prefer the convenience of an app."

The app can be used anywhere, at any time. The results can - and should - be shared with people's healthcare providers.

"By simply pressing a button, you can learn how to add quality years to your life," says Dr. Di Buono. "This is an easy tool to help Canadians make changes to reduce their risks."

The My Heart&Stroke Health App™ is available for free at mobile app stores on Apple iPhone, Blackberry and Android. The app is classified under "Health & Fitness" or you can download it at heartandstroke.ca/mobileapps. If you don't have a mobile phone, you can take the risk assessment online at heartandstroke.ca/risk.

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.

"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.

A waist measurement is something that people can do on their own, as well as discuss with their doctor. It's a simple, low-tech, accurate way of identifying people who are at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and metabolic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. For more information on how to measure your waist, go to heartandstroke.ca/healthywaist.

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.

Four out of 10 had not been weighed, asked about their level of physical activity, or whether they smoked - risks the Foundation has encouraged the public to discuss with their health practitioner for years.

"Healthcare professionals tend to be focused on urgent or acute healthcare issues in their busy offices," says Dr. Abramson. "Both patients and physicians have a responsibility to discuss the prevention and management of chronic disease by raising these questions."

"Knowledge is power," she says. "Conversations with your healthcare provider who can explain the importance of managing risk factors can empower you to take control of your health. It's essential to start having those conversations early in life and to have them regularly as you age."

Making change - it takes a village

While people can take charge and apply what has been learned from decades of research on cardiovascular risk factors, the Heart and Stroke Foundation is also working to address the societal and environmental roots of heart disease and stroke.

"We have said for some time that we need to make sure that the healthy choice is the easy choice for all Canadians," says Dr. Di Buono.

"Telling people to eat more vegetables and fruit is pointless unless governments, industry and organizations like the Heart and Stroke Foundation work together to make healthy food more affordable and accessible to all Canadians."

He notes that individuals, families, schools, health care providers, communities, businesses, industries and government collectively play a role in improving the health of Canadians.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation, a volunteer-based health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke and reducing their impact through the advancement of research and its application, the promotion of healthy living and advocacy.