CANHEART: Cardiovascular Health Measurement Tool

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Laura Maclagan, MSc.
Epidemiologist, Cardiovascular Program
ICES Central
Toronto, Ontario M4N 3M5

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: We developed the CANHEART health index in order to measure the cardiovascular health of the Canadian population. The index is based on the prevalence of six health factors and behaviours known to be associated with cardiovascular health; being a non-smoker, being physically active, consuming at least 5 fruits and vegetables per day, having a low body mass index (BMI <25 kg/m²) and being free of diabetes and hypertension. The factors were summed to create an index ranging from 0 (worst) to 6 (best/ideal). We found that only 9.4% of Canadian adults age 20 and older met our definition of ideal cardiovascular health. 53.3% of adults were in intermediate cardiovascular health (4-5 healthy behaviours/factors) and 37.3% were in poor cardiovascular health (0-3 healthy behaviours). We found that the cardiovascular health of Canadians was stable over the 2003-2011 study period.

MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer:  Previous research has focused on the burden of cardiovascular disease in the population. This is the first effort to quantify the cardiovascular health of Canadians using a single metric. The findings of our study indicate that there is room for improvement in the cardiovascular health of Canadians, particularly by improving levels of modifiable health behaviours. Too many Canadians are at an increased risk of cardiovascular events due to unhealthy behaviours and factors.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer:  For clinicians, findings from our study can be used to identify areas where patients may be counselled or encouraged to improve their heath behaviours. For example, smoking cessation should be offered to patients who are smokers in order to reduce their risk of cardiovascular events. Encouraging patients to improve other health behaviours such as being more physically active and eating more fruits and vegetables will help individuals to maintain healthy body weights and reduce their risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular events.

For patients, the index can be used to identify areas for individual improvement in health behaviours. For individuals who already have diabetes and hypertension, making improvements in health behaviours may help to better manage their conditions. Small individual improvements in health behaviours and factors can add up to large population-level changes in cardiovascular health if individuals take initiative to improve even just one behaviour or factor.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer:  We should continue to monitor population trends in health behaviours and factors in order to identify appropriate targets for interventions that will have the most impact in reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease in the population. Changing individual health behaviours is very difficult, and successful interventions to improve the cardiovascular health of Canadians will require support and collaboration from many groups including government, policy makers, disease and other organizations, clinicians, patients, and the general public.

Citation:

The CANHEART health index: a tool for monitoring the cardiovascular health of the Canadian population

Laura C. Maclagan, Jungwee Park, Claudia Sanmartin, Karan R. Mathur, Doug Roth, Douglas G. Manuel, Andrea Gershon, Gillian L. Booth, Sacha Bhatia, Clare L. Atzema, and Jack V. Tu

The CANHEART health index: a tool for monitoring the cardiovascular health of the Canadian population CMAJ cmaj.131358; published ahead of print December 23, 2013, doi:10.1503/cmaj.131358

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