For professionals: Heart diseases and conditions

Access detailed information on heart diseases and blood circulation conditions, including the most recent statistics, risk factors, key publications.

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What health professionals need to know about heart diseases and conditions

In Canada, heart disease is the second leading cause of death after cancer, and is a leading cause of hospitalization.

In 2017–2018, about 8.5% of Canadians 20 years and older were living with diagnosed ischemic heart disease, with about 160,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

On average, individuals diagnosed with ischemic heart disease are almost 3 times more likely to die of any cause than those without the condition. The likelihood of death is even greater for individuals who had an acute myocardial infarction or those living with heart failure.

Risk factors

Promoting a healthy lifestyle is key in preventing heart diseases and conditions. Risk can be reduced by being physically active, avoiding smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, having a healthy diet, limiting alcohol use and reducing stress.

Pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension also increase the risk of developing heart diseases and should be closely monitored by health professionals.

Other risk factors include both strenuous exercise and cold weather because they can increase blood pressure and heart rate. They can also elevate blood concentration of fibrinogen, a protein associated with blood clotting. But when strenuous exercise and cold weather are combined, the risk of heart attack is even greater.

As the heart beats faster, the shape of the blood vessels can change. Pre-existing risk factors such as plaque inside the blood vessels increase the risk of a fatal attack. The vessels may rupture under the strain due to an increase in blood pressure or changes in vascular tone linked to physical exertion.

Acute heart problems increase in connection with significant decreases in outdoor temperature. Research indicates that a decrease in temperature of 10 degrees represents a 38% increased risk of recurrent heart attack.

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