In Canada, heart disease is the second leading cause of death next to cancer. Heart disease does not discriminate and affects individuals of all ages. Some are born with heart disease (congenital heart disease) and some develop heart disease due to a variety of reasons, including poor diet and health and genetics. Ischemic heart disease is the most common and leading cause of hospitalization in Canada. For those not genetically pre-disposed, heart disease prevention is possible by making positive lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise.
If you were recently diagnosed with heart disease, learning to accept it takes time, but it also requires immediate lifestyle changes. Living with heart disease often involves taking frequent medications to manage symptoms, making regular medical visits and speaking to someone about emotional and psychological care.
What is Heart Disease?
Also known as ischemic heart disease (IHD) or coronary heart disease, heart disease occurs when there is a build-up of plaque within the heart’s arteries, which could also result in a heart attack, heart failure, or even death. Having heart disease also leads to reduced blood flow to the heart, which has very serious consequences.
Canadians Living with Heart Disease
The Government of Canada indicated that data on rates of cardiovascular disease in G7 countries are not collected such that comparisons can be made, however, looking at rates of mortality, Japan has shown the lowest mortality rate from heart disease at 39 deaths per 100,000 population in 2011, while the United States had the highest rate at 124 deaths per 100,000. Canada ranked in the middle at 95 deaths per 100,000 population.
Heart Disease in Youth
Across Canada, there is an estimated 280,000 children and adults with CHD and the number is increasing every year. If CHD has affected you or your family, it is important to know that the outlook for children living with the disease has improved, thanks to medical advances in Canada and around the world. Many adults are able to avoid or manage complications, and improve their quality of life because of improvements in the management and care of CHD. Today, nine in 10 children with a CHD diagnosis survive to adulthood.
The Children’s Heart Network reports that CHD is the most common birth defect. Each year, about one out of every 100 babies born has a heart defect and more than half of all babies born with CHD will require surgery in order to survive. Of those diagnosed with CHD, 21 per cent of children requiring cardiac surgery are under one month old, and 40 per cent of children requiring cardiac surgery are under one year old.
Heart Disease in Adults
Data indicates that as many as 38,000 Canadians between the ages of 20 to 39 were living with IHD, and over 35,000 Canadians between the ages of 40 to 54 were living with heart failure in 2012–2013.
It is reported that nearly 80 per cent of premature heart disease can be prevented simply by replacing unhealthy lifestyle choices with healthy lifestyle choices. This includes eating better, quitting smoking, and becoming more physically active. Prevention is key when it comes to heart related illnesses. Adopting a healthy and active lifestyle will decrease your risk of developing heart disease. If you have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, atrial fibrillation or vascular cognitive impairment, your risk of heart disease is higher. Therefore, it is advisable to seek professional help in order to make healthier choices in life. This may include speaking to a dietitian and/or your doctor.
Heart disease in Seniors
An estimated 2.4 million Canadians suffer from heart disease with seniors between the ages of 65 – 74 accounting for 14.8 per cent of reported heart disease, with the proportion climbing to 22.9 per cent over age 75. More Canadians are affected by heart disease as they get older. About two thirds of Canadians live with IHD and over 80 per cent of those who have heart failure are 65 years or older.
Following a heart disease diagnosis, it’s especially important for seniors over the age of 65 to manage all other health-related issues, in order to slow the progression of the disease. For example, managing high cholesterol, high blood pressure and/or diabetes would benefit elderly patients. It’s never too late to adopt a more active lifestyle and to choose to eat a healthier more balanced diet. Talk to your doctor about ways to reduce cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. For smokers, quitting the habit has enormous benefits (at any age), as smoking contributes to heart and lung-related diseases. By taking action and making positive lifestyle choices, heart patients can decrease the risk of heart failure.
Quick Stats on Heart Disease
(From Government of Canada website)
- Every hour, about 12 Canadian adults age 20 and over with diagnosed heart disease die.
The death rate is:
- Three times higher among adults age 20 and over with diagnosed heart disease compared to those without;
- Four times higher among adults age 20 and over who have had a heart attack compared to those who have not;
- Six times higher among adults age 40 and over with diagnosed heart failure compared to those without.
- Men are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than women.
Men are newly diagnosed with heart disease about ten years younger than women (55-64 vs 65-74 years of age).
You Are What You Eat
Food plays such a crucial role in our heart and overall health. Choosing to eat a more nutritious and a balanced diet will reduce your risk of heart disease. Adopting a healthy lifestyle at a young age makes it easier to carry those good habits into adulthood. And don’t fret if you’ve made poor choices in the past, it’s never too late to change. Prevention is key! Research shows that with the right interventions, you can reduce your risk of developing heart disease by as much as 80 per cent. Eating healthier foods doesn’t always mean boring vegetables. Learning how to replace unhealthy foods with delicious healthy options isn’t as hard as you think.
Read our blog Heart Healthy Ingredient Replacements to get ideas!
How to Cope with a Heart Disease Diagnosis
Getting bad news from your doctor is never a good feeling. It’s important to stay connected with friends and family, following a heart disease diagnosis. Equally important is making sure you continue to do the things you enjoy. Make every effort not to fall into isolation, as this could lead to depression and other illnesses. Living with heart disease does not necessarily mean you have to stop all physical activity either. Speak to your doctor about your limitations. Many people do go back to work, but often on a modified work schedule. Speak to your employer to find out how they will accommodate you.