Obesity Drives Canada’s Cardiovascular Disease

Heart attack and stroke risks projected to fall as smoking becomes less central in cardiovascular disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Health advocates worldwide have aimed to cut rates of heart disease and the disorders that trigger it. After a half-century of documented progress on that front, Canadian researchers project a change in the root causes of heart disease in that nation.

Between 2015 and 2017, obesity is expected to become the leading cause of stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular problems in Canada, based on new projections that also forecast a modest decrease in such problems.

Smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and overweight are among the main triggers for cardiovascular illness. Those factors also drive cardiovascular disease in the United States.

"Follow a heart healthy diet and lifestyle."

This study’s lead author was Douglas Manuel, MD, MSc, of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Dr. Manuel's research team analyzed such data as birth and death rates, gender, place of residence, social and economic status, and cardiovascular disease risk factors among 105,908 Canadians aged 20 and older who completed the Canadian Community Health Survey for 2000-2001.

Based on those characteristics, the profiles of those 105,908 individuals were applied to Canada's entire population of 22.5 million adults who were at least 20 years old. The researchers also used information from the 1990 Canadian Heart Health Survey, which compared, among other things, cases of high blood pressure that had and had not been treated and cholesterol levels.

Based on the analysis of those characteristics among the 22.5 million adult Canadians, the researchers concluded that obesity and diabetes would be the only cardiovascular disease risk factors that would not see a decline by 2021.

Obesity, they wrote, would surpass smoking as the main risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Rates of smoking and high blood pressure were projected to decline.

Dr. Manuel and team projected that the amount of Canadians who smoke would drop to 17.1 percent of that nation’s population in 2021 from 25.7 percent in 2001. They also projected that the number of Canadians with high blood pressure would dip to 10.8 percent of the population in 2021 from 16.1 percent in 2001.

Cases of cardiovascular disease have fallen by 70 percent in Canada over the last 50 years, these researchers wrote.

Given the overall decline in all risk factors, these researchers wrote that cardiovascular disease among Canadians likely will keep declining. "However, the projected increases in obesity and diabetes will likely [slow], but not reverse, decreases in cardiovascular disease incidence," they wrote.

They also wrote, "The prevalence of risk factors could be lower than our projections if healthy physical and social conditions improve or if efforts to prevent [high blood pressure and high cholesterol] are strengthened. Conversely, Canada's physical and social environment may become more conducive to an increase in obesity."

Through this research, the researchers aimed to improve medical strategies to curb cardiovascular disease, they wrote.

This study was published May 20 in the CMAJ Open.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canadian Cardiovascular Outcome Research Network and New Emerging Team in Simulation Technology for Applied Research funded this study.

Its researchers reported that they had no financial investments or other conflicts of interest that would affect study design, outcomes and analysis.

Review Date: 
May 21, 2014
Last Updated:
May 27, 2014