12/23/2013 12:08 EST | Updated 02/22/2014 05:59 EST

Heart health 'ideal' for 9% of Canadian adults, tool shows

The heart health of most Canadian adults is less than ideal say doctors, who warned in a study today of an increasing trend to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes as cause for concern. 
The Cardiovascular Health in Ambulatory Care Research Team or CANHEART index measures optimal heart health, based on behaviour such as smoking and physical activity, and factors like diabetes, using data from more than 464,000 respondents to the Canadian Community Health Survey from 2003 to 2011. 

Fewer than one in 10 Canadian adults (9.4 per cent) and one in five Canadian youth aged 12 to 19 (16.6 per cent) were in ideal cardiovascular health, the team concluded in Monday's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.  

"A large proportion of Canadians are in poor cardiovascular health, and the overall trend has not changed in the past decade," Dr. Jack Tu, from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto said in a release.  

"There is an urgent need to improve the heart health of Canadians."  
Adults received scores ranging from worst (zero) to best (six) for six criteria:  

- Smoking.

- Overweight/obesity.

- Physical activity.

- Fruit and vegetable consumption.

- Hypertension/blood pressure. 

- Diabetes. 

Hypertension and diabetes weren't included for youth.
The researchers said they found mixed trends, including encouraging signs among adults such as the decreasing prevalence of smoking and increasing prevalence of both fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity. Among youth they noted the decreasing prevalence of smoking. 
"However, the rising prevalence of overweight/obesity among adults, and youth and hypertension and diabetes among adults,are cause for concern," they said. 
Twice as many women as men were ideal cardiovascular health (12.8 per cent compared with 6.1 per cent), the researchers found. 
Average scores generally decreased from western to eastern provinces, with the prevalence of poor cardiovascular health lowest in British Columbia at 30.1 per cent and highest in Newfoundland and Labrador at 51.7 per cent.  
Differences in age, socioeconomic factors such as education and income, ethnic makeup of populations and the availability of recreational facilities may contribute to the interprovincial differences, the researchers said.  
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada has said it wants to improve the ​cardiovascular health of Canadians by 10 per cent, as measured on the new index, by 2020.  

The data was self-reported. Another limitation was a lack of information on some important dietary factors such as sodium and whole grain consumption.  
The index was created by researchers at ICES, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, Women's College Hospital Research Institute, Sunnybrook, St. Michaels' Hospital in Toronto, the University of Toronto in Toronto, Statistics Canada and the Ottawa Hospital Research Centre.