Message from the Minister of Health and Minister of Sport and Physical Activity – Heart Month, February 2024
February 1, 2024 | Ottawa, Ontario | Public Health Agency of Canada
February is Heart Month, a time to raise awareness about the importance of cardiovascular health and an opportunity to focus on what we can do to improve our heart health. Heart disease impacts almost all of us at some point in our lives, either indirectly or directly. It is the second leading cause of death for both men and women in Canada.
Prevention plays an important role when it comes to heart and cardiovascular disease. Healthy behaviours such as being physically active, eating a variety of healthy foods, limiting highly processed foods, not smoking, getting proper sleep and managing stress can help reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
The Government of Canada is committed to helping people in Canada improve their health and providing the necessary resources so they can reduce their risk of heart disease and other conditions. There are helpful online resources, including Canada's Food Guide to support healthier food choices and eating patterns, as well as information about the benefits of being physically active, and guidelines on what a healthy 24 hours looks like when it comes to physical activity and sleep.
Heart disease affects men and women differently. While the likelihood of heart disease is higher for men than women, women are more likely than men to die in the year following a heart attack. This may be explained by women having more subtle symptoms that are difficult to detect. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), through the Healthy Canadians and Communities Fund (HCCF), is investing approximately $20 million annually and leveraging additional funding from partners to support projects that focus on common risk factors. These include physical inactivity, unhealthy eating and tobacco use that are associated with the major chronic diseases of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. For example, through the HCCF, the University of Ottawa Heart Institute has a project that aims to design a women’s heart disease prevention network to improve awareness, screening and assessment for cardiovascular diseases and its risk factors.
Biological factors such as age, gender and family history play a part in our risk of heart disease. But so do environmental and socio-economic factors like air-pollution and income. These factors pose not just a passive threat to cardiovascular health but also a barrier to making preventative measures like healthy eating and getting regular physical activity readily accessible. What’s more, these kinds of barriers disproportionately impact some people more than others. This is why it’s so important that we continue to invest in research and surveillance in this area. Through the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System, PHAC collects health data to generate national estimates and trends over time for over 20 chronic diseases and conditions, and other selected health outcomes. This includes data on various heart diseases and rates presented by age, sex and jurisdiction. Health inequalities are monitored through PHAC’s Health Inequalities Data Tool which draws on a number of national surveys and administrative databases to provide data on health diseases and heart disease mortality, as well as related behaviours throughout the life course organized by various determinants, including sex, gender, race, ethnicity, income and education.
Research is critical to bettering our understanding of cardiovascular health conditions. Over the last five years, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Government of Canada has invested more than $533 million in research to improve heart health. For example, with partners, an investment of $5 million helped establish the Canadian Heart Function Alliance, a national network supporting research on heart failure across the lifecycle, which works closely with patients, caregivers, and policymakers.
Heart Month is an excellent time to reflect and take steps to making positive and healthy choices for today and into the future. These choices can include taking small steps laid out in the 24-hour movement guidelines: Move more, reduce sedentary time and sleep well. Prioritizing daily movement, like a walk outside, is a great example. Eating a variety of healthy foods each day and scheduling regular appointments with a health care provider are also helpful measures. Healthy lifestyle behaviours combined with early detection and management of medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol can help you reduce your risk of heart disease.
Together, we can make healthy living a priority and work towards improving our heart health.
The Honourable Mark Holland, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, P.C., M.P.
Office of the Honourable Mark Holland
Minister of Health
Office of the Minister of Sport and Physical Activity
Public Health Agency of Canada
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