Canadians face decade of sickness in later years

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Posted: February 2013

Foundation’s 2013 Report on the Health of Canadians says baby boomers must act now to reduce risk of heart disease and stroke and “Make Health Last”

Canadian baby boomers have big aspirations for their golden years, but their current lifestyle choices could keep them from making these dreams a reality. The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s 2013 Report on the Health of Canadians (PDF) titled Reality Check warns that without immediate action, baby boomers may spend their last years in sickness, disability and immobility.

Although Canadians are living longer, according to Statistics Canada, on average, there’s a 10-year gap between how long we live, and how long we live in health. This gap is mainly due to heart disease, stroke and other chronic conditions.

A new Heart and Stroke Foundation poll* found that while almost 80 per cent of Canadian boomers think their doctors would rate them as healthy, their self-reported lifestyle choices show otherwise.

A huge majority of boomers reported not eating enough vegetables and fruit (85 per cent), more than 40 per cent are not getting enough physical activity each week, one in five (21 per cent) smoke, and one in 10 (11 per cent) are heavy drinkers. While the large majority of boomers said they feel stressed at least sometimes, almost 30 per cent flag they are often or always stressed.

  • How does your region rate? Here’s what our poll revealed about unhealthy habits across Canada.

Despite these lifestyle habits, more than a quarter of Canadian baby boomers don’t feel concerned about how healthy they will be later in life. And a shocking three quarters (74 per cent) don’t know that they can reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 80 per cent with lifestyle modifications.

“The lifestyle choices that Canadian boomers are making directly contribute to living the last 10 years of their lives in sickness. This should cause boomers a lot of concern,” says Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson. “The good news is that if lifestyle changes are made now, many Canadians can considerably reduce the effects of heart disease and stroke. It is possible for us to take charge of our heart health, reduce hospitalizations and immobility, significantly improving the quality of our lives.”

Nine in 10 Canadians already have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke and nearly four in 10 have three or more risk factors. Approximately 1.3 million Canadians are currently living with the effects of heart disease, and 315,000 are living with the effects of stroke, including increased hospitalization and decreased mobility. In fact, heart disease and stroke is the leading cause of hospitalization in Canada, resulting in 1,000 hospital visits each day.

Lifestyle changes to Make Health Last
The Heart and Stroke Foundation is launching Make Health Last to help motivate and support Canadians to live the lives they want in their later years.

According to the Foundation, Canadians have the power to Make Health Last and shrink the 10-year gap between how long they live and how long they live with health by addressing five controllable behaviours that can affect heart disease and stroke risk:

  • Physical inactivity results in nearly four years of quality life lost
  • Eating a poor diet equals nearly three years of quality life lost
  • Excessive stress can cost nearly two years or more of quality life
  • Quitting smoking can add two and a half more years of quality life
  • Excessive drinking costs Canadians two years of quality life

By making lifestyle changes in these areas, Canadians can change their future and gain health and quality of life in their later years.

How the Foundation is helping
The Heart and Stroke Foundation urges Canadians to visit to assess their risk factors and find tips and tools for making healthy lifestyle changes.

In addition to, the Foundation offers the Heart&Stroke Risk Assessment™ as well as the <30 Days™ app. These online and mobile tools, sponsored by Desjardins Insurance, assist Canadians to understand and manage their risk for heart disease and stroke.

These two important resources, along with other tools like the Heart&Stroke Blood Pressure Action Plan™ and the Heart&Stroke Healthy Weight Action Plan™ can help identify risk factors Canadians need to improve, and provide useful information to help them get there.

“To make death wait, as we asked Canadians to do last year, is not enough,” says Dr. Abramson. “ We also need to make health last to have the lives we want to live.”

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

Healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke. Together we will make it happen.

*The Heart and Stroke Foundation poll was conducted online by Leger Marketing among 800 Canadian baby boomers (born between 1947 and 1966) in November 2012. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20.

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