02/03/2015 12:01 EST | Updated 04/04/2015 05:59 EDT

Heart attack survivors thrive thanks to 60 years of progress

Heart attack survival rates in Canada reflect tremendous progress in diagnosis and treatment over the past 60 years, but an aging population and obesity threaten the gains, according to a new report.

In its annual report released Tuesday, the Heart and Stroke Foundation looks back on 60 years of accomplishments in the prevention, treatment and care of cardiovascular disease.

In the 1950s, the foundation reports, 65 to 70 per cent of Canadians made it hospital after a heart attack. That figure has climbed to to 95 per cent today.

“Fewer Canadians are losing their loved ones, thanks to success we have seen, but the flip side is that more people — an estimated 1.6 million in Canada — are now living with the effects of cardiovascular disease,” the report’s authors say.

Today’s heart attack survivors tend to enjoy much better quality of life than decades ago. They’re often discharged from hospital within weeks and can return to work in a few weeks. Fifty years ago, a heart attack survivor was often very sick and able to resume their normal lives.

However, the country’s aging population is more vulnerable to heart disease and stroke, said Dr. Robert Rose, a cardiac researcher and an associate professor at Dalhousie Medical School in Halifax.

"An aging population combined with poor diets, high obesity and diabetes rates and physical inactivity will stall, if not reverse, the progress we have made," the report's authors note.

Rick Marsters, who had a heart attack last year when he was 53, says he no longer eats fast food, frozen dinners or meals from a can. Nevertheless, he added, "It’s really hard to change your bad habits."

The foundation recommends everyone:

- Eat a healthy diet and aim for five to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit every day.

- Be physically active. Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense activity each week in sessions of 10 minutes or more.

- Quit smoking.

- Consume alcohol in moderation — two drinks a day for women to a weekly maximum of 10, and three drinks a day for men to a weekly maximum of 15.

- Manage stress.

- Know and control your blood pressure.

- Keep cholesterol in check.

- Manage diabetes.

- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Watch your waistline.