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Canadians: Sick, tired and over-medicated

Bill FoxBy Bill Fox/Columnist

I watched a movie this past week, entitled Forks Over Knives. The movie is a life changer and was one of the very best documentaries I have ever seen! As a result, I will be writing a few columns about what I have learned about how easy it will be to change my poor eating habits and, perhaps, yours too.

However the movie is laced with American statistics, which are equally astonishing when compared to the Canadian statistics I just uncovered. To give you an appetite, or lack thereof. to read on, I present here some startling statistics:

  • Every 53 seconds, someone in the U.S. dies of heart disease, thus claiming 600,000 lives per year. Every seven minutes in Canada, someone dies from heart disease or stroke.
  • In Canada, 206 people die from cardiovascular disease and stroke every day.
  • 600,000 Canadians are living with heart failure. In a report released Feb. 2, 2016, the Heart and Stroke Foundation says those numbers have nowhere to go but up.
  • The Heart and Stroke Foundation estimates that heart failure costs the Canadian health-care system $2.8 billion annually, with each patient staying in hospital for about eight days on average.
  • There is a relationship between diabetes and heart disease and stroke! Being diagnosed with diabetes also puts an individual at risk for heart disease and stroke. Indeed, about 80 per cent of Canadians with diabetes die from a heart attack or a stroke.
  • Compared with people who don’t have diabetes, people with diabetes are at higher risk for heart disease, have additional causes of heart disease, may develop heart disease at a younger age, and may have more severe heart disease. In fact, the term “diabetic heart disease” refers to heart disease that develops in people who have diabetes.
  • Diabetes can also pose health problems that increase the risk of stroke. High blood pressure is a major risk factor and leading cause of stroke. Many people with diabetes also have high cholesterol, increasing their risk for stroke. Brain damage may be more severe and extensive if blood sugar is high when a stroke happens.
  • For these reasons and many more, cardiovascular disease is one of the world’s most pressing health problems. And it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.
  • Nine in 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease or stroke.
  • Risk factors include smoking, alcohol, physical inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
  • More than 14 million Canadians are now obese or overweight.

How do the provinces and territories rank relative to Canada’s international peers? France, the top performer, had 84.5 deaths per 100,000 due to heart disease and stroke per year on average between 2009 and 2011. Quebec is the only province to receive an A grade, with an average mortality rate of 124.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

Overall, Canada ranks sixth among the 16 peer countries and scores a B grade. Between 2009 and 2011, an average of 141.9 Canadians died per 100,000 people due to heart disease and stroke. Quebec, British Columbia and New Brunswick are the only other regions with lower heart disease and stroke mortality rates than the Canadian average. Still, five other regions also earn B grades compared with Canada’s international peers – Ontario, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Yukon, and Manitoba. Alberta and P.E.I. both score Cs, as do the Northwest Territories and the lowest-ranked province, Newfoundland and Labrador. With 202.3 heart disease and stroke deaths per 100,000 population, Newfoundland and Labrador ranks just above last-place Finland. Finland gets the only D grade, with an average mortality rate of 251 deaths per 100,000 population.

I have learned that we can easily change these statistics dramatically. In my next column, I will look at how we can do this. In the meantime, you can watch Forks Over Knives on Netflix or see a trailer for the film on Youtube, which starts off with the startling fact that the present generation of youth may be the first to die at a younger age than their parents!