Heart attack rates highest in Newfoundland and Labrador: Report

Depending on where you live in Canada, you may have a higher chance of having a heart attack.

A new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released Thursday suggests that hospitalized heart-attack rates vary greatly from coast to coast, with British Columbia boasting the lowest rates, and Newfoundland and Labrador having the highest prevalence.

"Regions with higher heart-attack rates also tend to have higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, smoking and other cardiac risk factors," said Eugene Wen, CIHI’s manager of health indicators.

In B.C., the heart-attack rate was 169 for every 100,000 people, said the report, which used data from 2008 and 2009.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, it was 347 for every 100,000 people.

"On some levels, it’s surprising and concerning that depending on where you live in Canada, your risk for heart attack is different," said Dr. Beth Abramson, a Toronto cardiologist and spokeswoman for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. "There may be disparity in care based on one’s socio-economic status or on one’s income. I think this is a call to action for all Canadians and truly for governments."

The report – entitled Health Indicators 2010 – confirmed another of Abramson’s concerns: Canadians living in the country’s poorest neighbourhoods were 37 per cent more likely to have a heart attack than Canadians living in the country’s most affluent areas.

"If you can’t afford to buy healthy and nutritious foods, your risk factors for heart attack are more common," Abramson said. "If you don’t have the time or the funds to make a healthy (food) choice, that’s a problem. . . . This report suggests that it does translate into an increased risk for heart attack."

Despite the disparities between regions and socio-economic groups, the care Canadians received for heart attacks once they were admitted to hospital was relatively similar, the report said.

CIHI said if Canada had reduced its heart-attack rate by 16 per cent and prevented the need for hospitalization altogether, it could have saved roughly $100 million during the reporting period.

"I am proud of the fact that B.C. has once again been singled out as having the healthiest population in Canada," said B.C.’s Health Services Minister, Kevin Falcon, in a statement. "I want B.C. to continue to set the bar high for the rest of the country, and recent studies have shown that if we exercise about 30 minutes a day, control our weight, eat reasonably well and don’t smoke, we can reduce our risk factors for many common chronic diseases by up to 80 per cent."

Newfoundland and Labrador’s government said it recognizes that lifestyle choices and socio-economic status can affect the health of its residents.

"The provincial government has taken numerous measures to address these," the province’s Department of Health and Community Services said in a written statement to Canwest News Service. "In 2006, Newfoundland and Labrador was only the second province in Canada to put a Poverty Reduction Strategy in place that sets specific goals and actions to reduce poverty."

The province also has a Provincial Wellness Plan, also launched in 2006, that put an emphasis on healthy eating, physical activity and tobacco control.

The federal government needs to legislate policies aimed at encouraging healthy living, so that they reach all Canadians, Abramson said.

"I think we need to have national priorities that are legislated," she said. "Some of the priorities would be implementing . . . federal trans-fat regulations, mandating the placement of calorie counts on quick service restaurant menu boards . . . and improving access to affordable, nutritious foods in remote and Aboriginal communities."

On an individual level, Canadians can "be more physically active and eat a healthy diet," Abramson said.


Comments are closed.