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Heart Disease in BC

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in Canada.
Risk factors

In BC, the country’s third largest province, the prevalence of ischemic heart disease has remained relatively stable in the last decade, with a rate of 6.9 per cent in 2015/16. The prevalence of heart failure has been increasing slightly, from 1.8 per cent in 2000/01 to 2.0 per cent in 2015/16.

Improved health behaviours, treatment options and management of illness have all contributed to falling mortality rates due to heart disease in BC. Mortality for ischemic heart disease decreased from 20.6 per 1,000 people in 2000/01 to 14.7 per 1,000 people in 2015/16. Mortality for heart failure decreased from 52.3 per 1,000 people to 31.6 per 1,000 people in 2015/16.

Our personal health practices, such as the amount of exercise we get or the foods we eat, profoundly affect our risk for heart disease. Our health behaviours are determined not only by the choices we make, but also by the choices available to us. For example, communities that include parks and walking routes, and policies that limit processed foods in schools help people to make healthier choices.

While the consequences of cardiac diseases can be devastating, the good news is that about 90 per cent of premature heart disease can be prevented. Health behaviours, such as physical activity, diet, tobacco and alcohol use, are considered “modifiable” risk factors because changing these health practices will change people’s risk of heart disease. 

Non-modifiable factors, such as genetics (including family history), age, gender and ethnicity also affect people’s risk profile, but these factors cannot be changed. 

Powerful steps to improve heart health include:

  • quit smoking
  • maintain a healthy body weight
  • eat a healthy diet
  • lower high blood pressure
  • properly manage diabetes
  • reduce blood cholesterol
  • reduce stress

Provincial profile

In 2016, there were about 4.75 million British Columbians, reflecting an increase of approximately 11 per cent from 10 years previous. By 2036, BC’s population is expected to increase by 19.5 per cent to 5.9 million. 

People aged 65 years and older currently represent about 18 per cent of the population; this expected to increase by eight per cent in the next 20 years. The aging population will increase the prevalence of chronic diseases and create pressures on current and future need for cardiac services.

It’s important to note that population aging and growth is uneven across the province. While most health authorities will experience population increases in the coming years, growth in Fraser Health is projected to be the fastest and largest. 
Regional variation

There are notable differences between the health authorities when it comes to heart disease risk factors, disease prevalence and mortality which impacts demand for cardiac services in each region. 

People in the Northern Health region have the highest rates of smoking and obesity in BC, while Fraser Health region residents are the most physically inactive. In comparison, people in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Island Health regions generally demonstrate healthier behaviours. These differences may reflect the cardiovascular health of the populations living in these regions.

The rates of diagnostic cardiac catheterization (a test to diagnose heart disease) varies regionally, with Interior Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and the Island Health performing tests at a rate below the provincial average (468.4 per 100,000). Fraser Health’s rate is decreasing but remains the highest in the province (558.2 per 100,000).

Compared to province-wide hospitalization rates for angina, congestive heart failure and acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), residents in the Fraser Health, Interior Health and Northern Health regions are hospitalized at a higher rate. Residents in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Island Health regions have relatively lower rates than the provincial average.

The Vancouver Coastal Health region shows the lowest mortality rate for heart disease in BC at 1.1 per 10,000 below the provincial average; this rate is reflective of the region's lower prevalence of risk factors and heart disease. The Northern Health region has the highest mortality rate at 2.6 per 10,000 above the provincial average. The relatively smaller number of residents in Northern Health must be considered to understand trends and context.


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SOURCE: Heart Disease in BC ( )
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