Heart and Stroke Foundation Report: Without Lifestyle Changes Now, Many Baby Boomers Face a Decade of Sickness and Disability in Their Later Years
Majority say they want quality time as they grow old but their actions don't match their words. This Heart Month, the Foundation urges Canadians to take action and "Make Health Last"
OTTAWA, Feb. 4, 2013 /CNW/ - Canadian baby boomers have big aspirations for their golden years, but their current lifestyle choices could keep them from making these dreams a reality. The Heart and Stroke Foundation's 2013 Report on the Health of Canadians titled Reality Check warns that without immediate action, baby boomers may spend their last years in sickness, disability and immobility.
Although Canadians are living longer, according to Statistics Canada, on average, there's a 10-year gap between how long we live, and how long we live in health. This gap is mainly due to heart disease, stroke and other chronic conditions.
A new Heart and Stroke Foundation poll* found that while almost 80 per cent of Canadian boomers think their doctors would rate them as healthy, their self-reported lifestyle choices show otherwise.
A huge majority of boomers reported not eating enough vegetables and fruit (85 per cent), more than 40 per cent are not getting enough physical activity each week, one in five (21 per cent) smoke, and one in 10 (11 per cent) are heavy drinkers. While the large majority of boomers said they feel stressed at least sometimes, almost 30 per cent flag they are often or always stressed.
Despite these lifestyle habits, more than a quarter of Canadian baby boomers don't feel concerned about how healthy they will be later in life. And a shocking three quarters (74 per cent) don't know that they can reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 80 per cent with lifestyle modifications.
"The lifestyle choices that Canadian boomers are making directly contribute to living the last 10 years of their lives in sickness. This should cause boomers a lot of concern," says Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson. "The good news is that if lifestyle changes are made now, many Canadians can considerably reduce the effects of heart disease and stroke. It is possible for us to take charge of our heart health, reduce hospitalizations and immobility, significantly improving the quality of our lives."
Brian Campkin knows first-hand what it feels like to have a close call. Six years ago, at the age of 46, after feeling terrible shortness of breath on the tennis court, Brian was diagnosed with blocked arteries and underwent life-saving triple bypass surgery.
"I was stopped in my tracks. Literally. I had to face the fact that I wasn't healthy - and that was a shock, but it really shouldn't have been," says Campkin. "I didn't take care of myself and I was a slave to some of life's common stressors. I put everything else in my life before my health. I actually set myself on a path to sickness."
Since then, Brian has made it his mission to turn his life around. "I've taken control of my health and made a lot of healthy choices like changing my diet, so I can have the quality life I want in the future. I've lost 20 pounds and feel better than ever," Campkin adds.
Big Plans, Little Action
Canadian boomers are planning full lives for their later years. The survey showed 61 per cent feel the quality of the time they spend living is more important than the length of time. Half of boomers (54 per cent) want to travel and be active around the house, 38 per cent want to be involved grandparents, 36 per cent want to take up a new hobby and a quarter (27 per cent) would like to winter somewhere warm and sunny.
"We typically think teenagers are the ones who live like they're invincible, but boomers seem to forget their mortality too," says David Sculthorpe, CEO, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Canada. "In order to take full advantage of life and Make Health Last, Canadians need to take action - it's their time to decide if they'll grow old with vitality, or get old with disease."
"In a lot of cases this is a personal journey for Canadians, but it's also bigger than that," added Sculthorpe. "The Heart and Stroke Foundation will to continue to work with governments and health organizations to ensure that as a country, we enable access to healthy food, healthy activities and informed healthy decisions."
Nine in 10 Canadians already have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke and nearly four in 10 have three or more risk factors. Approximately 1.3 million Canadians are currently living with the effects of heart disease, and 315,000 are living with the effects of stroke, including increased hospitalization and decreased mobility. In fact, heart disease and stroke is the leading cause of hospitalization in Canada, resulting in 1,000 hospital visits each day.
Lifestyle Changes to Make Health Last
The Heart and Stroke Foundation is launching Make Health Last to help motivate and support Canadians to live the lives they want in their later years. Tips and tools on how to Make Health Last can be found at makehealthlast.ca.
According to the Foundation, Canadians have the power to Make Health Last and shrink the 10-year gap between how long they live and how long they live with health by addressing five controllable behaviours that can affect heart disease and stroke risk: physical inactivity, smoking, stress, poor diet and excessive alcohol consumption. By making lifestyle changes in these areas, Canadians can change their future and gain health and quality of life in their later years.
- Physical inactivity results in nearly four years of quality life lost
- Everything counts, even gardening, housework or dancing with your kids or grandkids, getting off the bus or subway a stop early, taking the stairs. The recommended amount is 150 minutes of moderate- to-vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, and it can take place in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Moderate intensity activities include brisk walking or bike riding. Vigorous intensity may mean jogging or cross-country skiing.
- Eating a poor diet equals nearly three years of quality life lost
- By following the recommendations in Canada's Food Guide you can be sure that you'll meet your daily requirements for vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, which will reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Here are Healthy Eating Recommendations.
- Keep a food diary, eat out less, eat smaller portions, eat more vegetables and fruit, cut back on sugar-sweetened drinks.
- Excessive stress can cost nearly two years or more of quality life
- Identify the source of your stress and what is bothering you. Share your feelings, talk to friends, family or professionals. Be physically active, take time for yourself and take breaks to get away from it all. Laugh more and try relaxation techniques. Check out the Heart and Stroke Foundation's brochure Coping with Stress.
- Quitting smoking can add two and a half more years of quality life
- Within one year of quitting, the risk of dying from smoking-related heart disease is cut in half; within 10 years, the risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half, and after 15 years, the risk of dying will be nearly that of a non-smoker.
- Tips to quit include considering why you smoke, list your reasons to quit, put more time between your cigarettes, set a quit date, designate smoke-free areas or seek help from your physician. Supportive resources can be found on the Heart and Stroke Foundation's website.
- Excessive drinking costs Canadians two years of quality life
- If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to no more than two drinks a day, to a weekly maximum of 10 for women, or three drinks a day, to a weekly maximum of 15 for men.
- If you drink excessively consider your triggers, alternate alcoholic drinks with water or juice, monitor intake, sip drinks and switch to non-alcoholic drinks. Click here for information about alcohol consumption guidelines.
More new data supports gap between Canadians' perception of their health
- and reality
A comparison of a recent survey** by Desjardins Insurance, with a sample of anonymous respondents of similar demographic profiles from the Heart and Stroke Foundation's online Heart&Stroke Risk Assessment***, found Canadians may not be as healthy as they think they are. For example:
- Sixty per cent of respondents to the Desjardins survey felt that they had a healthy weight, but the Heart and Stroke Foundation Risk Assessment data shows that 60 per cent of similar respondents are actually overweight or obese.
- Seventy one per cent of Desjardins survey respondents claimed their diet is healthy, while only 47 per cent of similar respondents to the Risk Assessment ate sufficient vegetables and fruit each week.
- Sixty per cent of respondents to the Desjardins survey felt they exercised enough to be healthy, but the Risk Assessment data shows only 50 per cent of similar respondents actually reached recommended activity levels.
Desjardins Insurance is contributing to the health of Canadians through a partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, sponsoring the online Heart&Stroke Risk Assessment™ as well as the <30 Days™ app. These online and mobile tools assist Canadians to understand and manage their risk for heart disease and stroke.
These two important resources, along with other tools like the Heart&Stroke Blood Pressure Action Plan™ and the Heart&Stroke Healthy Weight Action Plan™ can help identify risk factors Canadians need to improve, and provide useful information to help them get there.
"To make death wait, as we asked Canadians to do last year, is not enough," says Dr. Abramson. " We also need to make health last to have the lives we want to live."
The Heart and Stroke Foundation, a volunteer-based health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke, reducing their impact through the advancement of research and its application, the promotion of healthy living and advocacy.
Healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke. Together we will make it happen.
*The Heart and Stroke Foundation poll was conducted online by Leger Marketing among 800 Canadian baby boomers (born between 1947 and 1966) in November 2012. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20.
**The Desjardins Financial Security survey was conducted online by SOM Surveys, Opinion Polls and Marketing from August to September 2012. In total 2,088 questionnaires were completed by Canadians aged 18 years and over.
***The Heart&Stroke Risk Assessment collected health data of 322,183 Canadian respondents, including 159,423 baby boomers (born between 1947 and 1966), between January 2009 and January 2011.
SOURCE HEART AND STROKE FOUNDATION