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Canadian Heart Attack Hot Spots

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 12 March 2002 00:00

While the Canada Safety Council is celebrating Canada's triumph over traffic deaths, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada reports progress, too. However, since many homeowners suffer heart attacks each year as they tackle traditional home-maintenance jobs, the Foundation feels there is still room for improvement.

  • Canadian road fatalities dropped 47 percent between 1980 and 2000, compared to the US decrease of 18 percent, even though the number of vehicles increased by 48 percent and the number of licenced drivers rose 37 percent.

  • The rate of death among patients hospitalized for a heart attack has dropped from 16% to 8%.

    In spite of improvements in heart attack mortality, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, which funds 60 % of the heart and stroke research in Canada has uncovered some startling regional disparities that indicate where you live can affect your vulnerability to heart attack and death. The Foundation is currently researching Ontario Hot Spots, "geographic areas showing higher rates of mortality and morbidity than others across the province." These Hot Spots include the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, the southwestern counties of Bruce, Elgin and Essex, the Haldimand-Norfolk Regional Municipality, Sudbury Regional Municipality and Thunder Bay District.

    Initial research revealed that, for instance, in Haldimand-Norfolk Regional Municipality, which has a population of 107,840, during 1997 mortality rates were significantly higher (326 versus 215/100,000) than the rest of Ontario. The seriousness of this geographical disparity is particularly evident when figures are compared to the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Municipality: Ottawa had a heart attack rate almost half that of Haldimand-Norfolk, and death rate of 196 versus 326/100,000 population.

    The Foundation reports that striking urban-rural discrepancies in heart disease distribution are attributable in part to traditional risk factors, many of which are modifiable. The Ontario Health Survey shows that Ontario's northern and rural areas have more smokers, more obese and sedentary people and more individuals who eat a high-fat diet as compared to urban areas. Socioeconomic and environmental factors seem also to contribute to the higher incidence in these area. Although the Foundation sees the necessity for further research, it feels stepped up health promotion and clinical prevention strategies will help reduce currently recognized risk factors.

    Every year, homeowners succumb to heart attacks while shoveling snow or undertaking a strenuous gardening or home renovation project. Quick action on the home front will improve the heart attack victims chances of survival:

  • Chest pain (angina) is definitely a warning sign to get medical attention. Unless you take medication for angina, treat any chest pain as a medical emergency!

  • On average, Canadians wait almost five hours before deciding to get help. This reduces their chances of survival. Half of heart attack deaths occur within two hours after the beginning of the heart attack and/or before the victim reaches hospital. Immediate early access to medical care is essential.

  • While waiting for the ambulance, you must stop all activity and sit or lie down. If you use nitroglycerin, take the normal dosage. If you have chest pain, chew and swallow one adult 325 mg ASA tablet (e.g., Aspirin®) or two low dose 80 mg tablets. Do not use pain medicines like acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol® ) or ibuprofen (e.g. Advil®). [bullet] The early provision of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) following a cardiac arrest is vital to survival. Most studies suggest that a person is much more likely to survive if a bystander administers CPR immediately following onset of the attack. St. John Ambulance provides a variety of family-oriented First Aid and CPR programs including the Heartsaver CPR course offered for $35.00. Contact your local chapter for details or visit their site

    Make your home a safe place to be by making sure everyone knows what to do in a health emergency, particularly a heart attack. Every minute that passes reduces the chances of heart attack survival by 7 to10 percent so confident action can save a life -- perhaps yours.

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