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This Annual Report Card on Canadians Health is archived for historical purposes only. Note that the statistics and information are current as of the original release date.

Heart Attack Picture in Canada Receives Mixed Grade - February 2001

Toronto, ON - According to the Heart and Stroke Foundations Annual Report Card on Canadians Health, theres good news and bad news when it comes to heart attacks in Canada. Over the past 13 years, there has been a 21% decline in heart attack deaths. Significantly more Canadians are now receiving life-saving, clot-busting drugs within one hour of arriving at hospital. The bad news is that close to half of those who survive continue to experience heart-related problems, including ischemia (reduced blood flow to the heart), chest pain , a restricted lifestyle and, of most concern, a high risk of repeat heart attack.

Heart and Stroke Foundations Annual Report Card
Heart Attack Survival in Canada

Heart Attack Indicators 1984 1997 % change Grade
of deaths 27,656 21,962 - 21% S
% of hospitalized patients who survive 78% 86% + 10% S
Canadians 25-74 years:
Total of heart attacks

Proportion of recurrent heart attacks
54,600 41,400 - 24% S
32% 36% + 13% NS
Treatment Indicators 1990-3 1995-7 % change Grade
Patients who receive clot-busting drugs within 1 hour 23% 59% + 156% S
Patients whose ischemia has improved 73% 54% - 26% NS
S = Satisfactory; NS = Not Satisfactory

We appear to be doing a better job of preventing first heart attacks, and of saving the lives of patients who are hospitalized, explains Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson, Dr. Andreas Wielgosz, cardiologist and health statistics expert. Between 1984 and 1997, the Foundation estimates that among Canadians aged 25-74, the number of heart attacks fell from 54,600 to 41,400. But despite these improvements, there are still serious problems for many heart attack survivors.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, a greater focus needs to be put on preventing recurrent (repeat) heart attacks and improving the quality of life of survivors. Heart attacks are the result of an interruption of the blood flow to the heart muscle through one or more of the coronary arteries . The Foundation estimated that among Canadians under age 75, the proportion of recurrent heart attacks has increased by 13%. Only half (54%) of Canadian heart attack survivors had their ischemia improved with surgery or drug treatment. Moreover, one year after their heart attack, less than a third (31%) of Canadian heart attack survivors rated their health as better than it had been a month after their heart attacks.

Ischemia has important implications for the quality of life of heart attack survivors, such as the ability to be active and to be free of chest pain ( angina ). Even young heart attack survivors (age 35-64 years) have more chronic pain, disabilities and restrictions on their activities. They are also less likely to be employed compared with their peers. Ischemia not only affects the quality of daily life for survivors, but also contributes to the development of congestive heart failure , one of the most debilitating and increasingly prevalent forms of heart disease .

Quality of Life Indicators Canadians Age 35-64 Years
With Heart Disease Without Heart Disease
Currently working 45% 75%
Pain that restricts daily activities 25% 12%
Describe health as "fair" or "poor" 39% 9%
Within past 2 weeks, had to cut down on activities due to illness/injury 22% 11%
All differences between Canadians with and without heart disease are statistically significant (p<.05). <p/>Heart Attack No Stranger to Canadians

In a recent Heart and Stroke Foundation survey, two-thirds (67%) of Canadians report knowing someone who has had a heart attack, with up to half (46%) experiencing a heart attack within the immediate family. In the same survey, the majority (86%) of Canadians state they believe heart attack survivors could look forward to a satisfactory or good quality of life after recovery, defined as being able to do most things but having some restrictions on their activities. Foundation spokesperson and cardiologist, Dr. Anthony Graham, points out that heart attack survivors battle more than a poor quality of life.

A significant proportion of heart attack survivors continue to face life-threatening problems, including recurrent heart attacks and heart failure, he says. To reduce the toll of heart disease, we need to do a better job of secondary prevention preventing the second, third or even fourth heart attack. This requires slowing down the progression of coronary artery disease, with much greater focus on controlling all modifiable risk factors .

Only a third of Canadian heart attack survivors participate in cardiac rehabilitation programs, despite the evidence that they improve functional ability and quality of life and may help to reduce the risk of recurrent events.

To support an increased focus on both primary and secondary prevention of heart disease in Canada, the Foundation is working at the health systems level and has initiated the development of The Canadian Cardiovascular Action Plan. This plan will encourage partnership to strengthen the four key pillars in the fight against heart disease and stroke health promotion/disease prevention; health surveillance (to measure the impact of disease management initiatives); health services delivery; and health research.

To further support heart attack survivors and their families, the Heart and Stroke Foundation is providing a number of resources to Canadians, including a risk evaluation test . These resources are available through the Foundations website ( and its toll-free information line (1-888-HSF-INFO). This week, the Foundation also launched the first-ever Heart & Stroke Health Show on network television. Hosted by Dini Petty, this TV show explores the challenges of living with heart disease and stroke with real-life Canadian survivors and medical experts.