Heart Disease in Canada

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Heart Disease in Canada

Heart disease is the general term for several diseases of blood vessels and the heart. Heart disease is Canada’s second-leading cause of death, accounting for more than 51,500 deaths.

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The heart muscle can be damaged by heart disease or it may not work properly. Plaque, which is composed of cholesterol, calcium, and fat, builds up inside the coronary arteries. Over time, this plaque can become hardened or rupture.

The coronary arteries become narrower and blood flow to the heart is reduced. When plaque ruptures, a blood clot may also form. The blood flow to the heart muscle will be blocked in such a situation.

Heart diseases that are commonly known include: ischemic disease (IHD), acute coronary infarction (AMI), angina, cardiac arrhythmias, stroke and heart failure. Symptoms of heart disease include shortness in breath, palpitations and fatigue.

The Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System is a network of chronic disease surveillance systems in Canada’s provinces and territories, led by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The CCDSS data is used to estimate the number of Canadians with heart disease, and those newly diagnosed. The trends in mortality are also examined.

PHAC has recently published a publication entitled ‘Report From the Canadian Chronic Disease Monitoring System: Heart Disease In Canada, 2018’ which describes the epidemiological trends, profiles and subsets of IHD, AMI, as well as heart failure.

Who is affected by this?

About 2.4 million Canadians (or one in twelve) aged 20 and older had IHD. This is the most common form of heart disease. About 578,000 (2%) of those individuals had a past history of AMI. A further 669,600 (3.6%) Canadian adults over 40 had heart failure.

Men vs. Women

In any year, it is observed that more men than woman have IHD, AMI, or heart failure. Only those over 85 years old are exempt. The rates of these diseases remain higher for men at this age than they are for women, but the gap between the two sexes is decreasing.

In the same way, men are more likely to die (for any reason) than women with IHD, heart failure or both. Women aged 45-74 with a past history of AMI were 1.3 times as likely to die in any given year from any cause compared to their male counterparts.

Women may have subtler symptoms, which can lead to a delay in seeking medical attention. Women also tend to experience more complications than men (e.g. Major bleeding is more common in women than men.

Check out the section below titled ‘Dive Into the Data’ to find out estimates based on age and gender.

Young vs. Old

As Canadians age, heart disease affects more people. Around two-thirds of Canadians with IHD, and more than 80% of Canadians with heart failure are over 65.

Even at an earlier age, heart disease can occur. In 2012-2013, 38,000 Canadians aged between 20 and 39 were diagnosed with IHD. Over 35,000 Canadians aged between 40 and 54 were diagnosed with heart failure.

Check out the section ‘Dive Into the Data’ below to find out estimates by gender and age.

Increase or decrease?

Over the past 13 years, from 2000-2001 until 2012-2013, the proportion of Canadians with IHD or heart failure has remained relatively constant while mortality rates have declined by 24% and 26 % respectively.

Over the same time period, the proportion of people with an AMI history increased by 67% while mortality rates from all causes decreased by about 35%. These trends indicate a better chance of survival due to improvements in the management of diseases and treatment.

Check out the section ‘Dive into the Data’ below to see trends throughout the years.