Is 60 the new 70?
This year, every day almost 1,000 Canadian Baby Boomers will turn 60, entering the prime age for heart disease and stroke, says Dr. Beth Abramson, Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson and cardiologist. Rising obesity rates and inactivity among Boomers could threaten years of steady progress towards better heart health.
Despite sustained attention to the health impact of obesity, a recent Heart and Stroke Foundation survey showed that a shocking 58% of Boomers think their weight has little or no effect on their heart health.
Ten years ago in its first look at this post-war population, the Foundations first Report on Boomers revealed their heart health was showing signs of decline compared to previous generations. A decade later, they continue to have higher rates of inactivity and smoking than those 65 to 74 years of age. The biggest change has been in the rates of obesity among Boomers, which has increased by almost 60% in the past 10 years.
Heart and Stroke Foundation Report on Baby Boomers
* Results from Canadian Heart Health Survey (1986-1992) for adults 35-49. Body Mass Index (BMI) was measured at special clinics. Sedentary lifestyle defined as not being physically active during leisure time at least once a week during preceding month.
** Results from Canadian Community Health Survey (2003/04) for adults 45-59. BMI measured during Cycle 2.2 of survey and rate is for age 45 to 54. Inactivity defined as less than 1.5 kcal/kg/day of physical activity, based on self-report of frequency, duration and intensity of leisure-time physical activity.
Boomers are clearly heading towards a downward spiral when it comes to their heart health, Dr. Abramson says. The picture is not good when compared to the previous generation, todays seniors. Boomers are certainly not headed in the right direction.
Approximately 1.3 million, or 21% of Canadian Baby Boomers (45 to 59 years old), have already been diagnosed with heart disease, stroke or high blood pressure. As Boomers enter their 60s the age at which heart disease rates begin to climb markedly the proportion of them with heart disease, stroke or high blood pressure will increase.
We know that 42% of Canadians already in their 60s report having heart disease, stroke or hypertension. Boomers with their high rates of obesity and inactivity could be even worse off, says Dr. Robert Reid, Heart and Stroke Foundation researcher.
BOOMERS A STUDY IN CONTRADICTION
The Heart and Stroke Foundation recently surveyed Boomers to gauge their awareness of this impending heart health crisis.
The survey found that Baby Boomers are concerned about the ability of our healthcare system to provide cardiovascular care, but at the same time, they are reluctant to accept responsibility for their own heart health. Only 14% of those currently free of heart disease were willing to admit their own risk could be high. A third of all deaths in Canada are caused by heart disease and stroke.
Heart and Stroke Foundation Survey: Concern and Confusion
National survey of 1,000 Canadians aged 35 to 60; results are considered accurate + 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.
With an aging population, you can expect to see an increase in the number of cardiac procedures, Dr. Abramson says. To make matters worse, about a quarter of our medical workforce themselves are Boomers. When they retire, the heart health crunch may become a heart health crisis.
Population estimates show the number of Canadians in their 60s jumping by 50% over the next 10 years (from 2.8 million to 4.2 million). In 2000/01 there were approximately 40,000 hospitalizations among those 55 to 64 years of age for a cardiovascular operation or procedure.
If the need for cardiac health care and services increases at the same time as the retirement of healthcare providers, wait times for procedures such as bypass surgery, cardiac catheterization, angioplasty, pacemaker and defibrillator implantations could soar, Dr. Abramson says.
Boomers faith in the continued upward trend in life expectancy may prove to be displaced if current health trends continue.
CANADIANS WANT INCENTIVES
Can anything be done to change this grim forecast? The Heart and Stroke Foundation stresses that prevention has never been more important.
Its never too late. No matter what your age, increasing activity, quitting smoking and losing weight even modest weight loss can reduce your blood pressure, blood glucose and blood cholesterol, says Dr. Abramson. This can go a long way to reducing your risk of developing heart disease and stroke, and give you many more years of healthy active life.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation is working towards the development of a heart health strategy to help avert this impending crisis. The Foundation also supports a comprehensive healthy living strategy to address the lifestyle risk factors that contribute to the development of chronic disease among Canadians.
Its clear the time has come for a national strategy to promote healthy living and chronic disease prevention, says Stephen Samis, Director of Health Policy for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. The Conservative party recognized in its election platform that disease prevention is critical to our health, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada calls on the new government to make this important issue a priority.
In the same poll, The Heart and Stroke Foundation asked Canadian Baby Boomers what other strategies the Federal government could put in place to support them in making healthier lifestyle choices. Top responses included:
Along with addressing policy priorities, the Heart and Stroke Foundation is building Canadian research capacity and expertise in obesity. In the past year, the Foundation partnered with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to fund 13 new childhood obesity research initiatives valued at more than $2.8 million. Also in 2005, the Foundations Target Obesity partnership committed $1.4 million to help us better understand the factors that influence obesity and fight the obesity epidemic and its consequences.
As part of its concerted strategic effort to address obesity, the Foundation recently initiated (and co-hosted with the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Canadian Institute for Health Information and the Public Health Agency of Canada) an expert think tank on reducing obesity in Canada. This diverse group of experts identified key directions for moving forward on policies to turn back the tide of the obesity epidemic, and their feedback will help direct future research investments by the Foundation.
The Heart and Stroke Foundations Call to Action
TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT:
By taking action, the federal government can help reduce the health burden on Canadians of obesity and inactivity.
Take charge of your health! Its never too late, and even small changes in your lifestyle can add years to your life!
Heres what you can do to lower your risk:
The Heart and Stroke Foundation also offers a number of health information resources including: Health CheckTM a food information program that helps consumers identify healthy food choices (www.healthcheck.org). Look for the Health Check logo on grocery products in your local store. Canadians can also order the Foundations Healthy Habits, Healthy Weight booklet and take the Heart&Stroke Risk Assessment Test, available online at www.heartandstroke.ca or by calling the Foundations toll-free number at 1-888-HSF-INFO (1-888-473-4636).
The Heart and Stroke Foundation is a leading funder of heart and stroke research in Canada. Our mission is to improve the health of Canadians by preventing and reducing disability and death from heart disease and stroke through research, health promotion and advocacy.
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