Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. leads the way with highest rate of heart disease in the country: cardiologist

New report sheds light on the significant and growing burden of heart failure

Posted: February 21, 2016

Heart failure is a leading cause of hospitalization in Canada, resulting in direct costs of more than $2.8-billion per year. (The Canadian Press)

The Heart and Stroke Foundation has described heart disease as a growing epidemic in Canada — and a St. John's cardiac specialist says Newfoundland and Labrador is leading the way.

Dr. Sean Connors told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show that this province not only has the highest rates of heart disease in the country, but it also ranks highest for levels of hypertension, obesity and diabetes.

'It is correct to term this as an epidemic.'  - Dr. Sean Connors, cardiac specialist

Connors said that when the foundation surveyed Canadians to find out just what they knew about heart health, people failed to recognize there's a problem.

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"Newfoundlanders perceive that their own health is better than what it actually is," he said.

"We have this perception issue. So we need to get people to realize that heart disease is the number one killer in Newfoundland [and Labrador], that we're higher than everyone else — and we need to do something about it."

The burden of heart failure

The report, entitled The Burden of Heart Failure, surveyed 2,012 Canadians in October of 2015 and was released in early February.

Heart failure means the heart muscle is not pumping blood as efficiently as it should, due to damage from heart disease, such as a heart attack. It is a leading cause of hospitalization — and results in direct costs of more than $2.8-billion per year in Canada.

Connors said there are approximately one million Canadians who have heart disease, and about 600,000 of those people are living with heart failure.

This chronic disease is often referred to as a 'revolving door condition.'

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"It is correct to term this as an epidemic," said Connors.

"These people get admitted to hospital, they're expensive admissions because these are very complicated patients. And then when they're stable enough to be discharged, about 20 per cent of those people are readmitted to hospital within 30 days."

Connors said the number of years of life lost to heart disease in this province is 50 per cent higher than the Canadian average. He added the high rate of heart disease in this province can be directly linked to factors such as diet and smoking.  

Connors was also part of the team that conducted research into genetic factors that contribute to sudden cardiac deaths.