Report calls for $700M heart disease war

Report calls for $700M heart disease war

Reported February 24, 2009

OTTAWA – After two years of consulting and analysis, a federal agency has concluded that too many Canadians die from heart attacks and strokes because they eat too much, exercise too little and are still smoking.

The Canadian Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan says the government should spend $700 million over seven years to persuade people to drop fatty, salty foods, get more exercise and ditch the butts.

The return, it says, would be a $22-billion savings in direct and indirect costs by 2020.

The strategy group was set up in 2006 to develop a national plan to reduce cardiovascular deaths.

“We already have a strategy for cancer, diabetes and lung disease, but until now, did not have a comprehensive strategy for the No. 1 killer and public health threat in the country – heart disease and stroke,” said Dr. Eldon Smith, a cardiac expert who chaired the steering committee that produced the plan.

He said there aren’t even national statistics on the problem.



“I cannot tell you how many Canadians had a stroke or heart attack last year. Comprehensive national statistics just don’t exist.”

In some ways, the cure is simple.

“We are too fat, spend too much time in our cars and on our couches and don’t eat enough healthy foods,” Smith said

The plan promotes healthy eating – including at least five servings of vegetables and fruit each day – and more physical activity.

It also proposes better access to health care, improved record-keeping to enhance prevention and care, and a better mix of health-care professionals.

By 2015, Smith hopes to see a 20 per cent drop in obesity among adults and a one-third cut in the number of obese children.

By 2020, the strategy aims to cut deaths from cardiovascular disease by a quarter and reduce hypertension in adults by a third.

It also hopes to cut the risk of heart attack and stroke in the native population in half. Aboriginals are currently twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared to the general population.