Vancouver − Health prevention strategies to help Canadians achieve their optimal health potential could add a decade or more of healthy years to the average lifespan and save the economy billions of dollars as a result of reduced cardiovascular disease, says noted cardiologist Dr. Clyde Yancy.
Dr. Yancy, who will deliver the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada Lecture at the opening ceremonies of the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Vancouver this Sunday, will tell delegates that people who follow seven simple steps to a healthy life can expect to live an additional 40 to 50 years after the age of 50.
"Achieving these seven simple lifestyle factors gives people a 90 per cent chance of living to the age of 90 or 100, free of not only heart disease and stroke but from a number of other chronic illnesses including cancer," says Dr. Yancy, a professor of medicine and chief of cardiology at the Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. He is also the past-president of the American Heart Association.
"By following these steps, we can compress life-threatening disease into the final stages of life and maintain quality of life for the longest possible time." He predicts that, if we act now, we can reverse the tide by 2020.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, every year in Canada about 250,000 potential years of life are lost due to heart disease and stroke, which are two of the three leading causes of death in Canada.
Canadians can achieve optimal health, says Dr. Yancy, by following these steps:
A call for focused prevention strategies
While this goal of optimal health has been achieved by fewer than 10 per cent of the population, "it demonstrates the striking potential that prevention has if it is broadly embraced," says Dr. Yancy. "We know how to prevent heart disease and stroke we now need to build the tools to empower our citizens to manage their risk and prevent heart disease."
Dr. Yancy calls on governments to invest in steady and focused prevention strategies. He says that necessary initiatives include a change in current sodium policies, continued progress in tobacco control initiatives, increased green space, and health education.
"Healthy living is key to preventing heart disease and stroke," says Bobbe Wood, president of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. "The Foundation is committed to raising awareness about heart health and to promoting public policies that facilitate healthy lifestyles and communities."
She says that the Foundation will continue to build on partnerships and policies that have led to a significant reduction of trans fats in the Canadian food supply; stronger tobacco control initiatives; healthy community design; and a continued reduction in the amount of salt in our food products, which has been achieved in part through Health Check, the Foundation's flagship food information program.
Dr. Yancy adds that improved access to health care that focuses on prevention and control of important risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes is also key.
Raising the alarm over looming costs of treating heart disease
Dr. Yancy will also raise the alarm over the looming cost of treating heart disease now and in the future. With predictions that the direct medical cost of treating heart disease in the U.S. alone could climb to $818 billion in 2030, he says there is a health and economic imperative for governments and societies around the world to embrace prevention strategies.
Heart disease and stroke cost the Canadian economy more than $20.9 billion every year in physician services, hospital costs, lost wages and decreased productivity.
"The opportunity for prevention is not an unrealistic expectation," says Dr. Yancy. "Over the past 40 years the rates of heart disease and stroke have steadily declined." The rate has declined in Canada by 70 per cent since the mid-1950s. In the last decade alone, the rate has declined by 25 per cent.
Unfortunately, says Dr. Yancy, these benefits may be short-lived if the burden of risk, specifically obesity and diabetes, continues to grow, especially in children. "We need to act now."
Canadians can take a personalized My Heart&Stroke Risk Assessment to find out how their age, family history, and medical conditions affect their heart health at heartandstroke.ca/risk.
|Contact: Amanda Bates|
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada