Rapid Beats: Heart Disease News and Updates for August

August 2016

Unhealthy Habits

Canadians Lose Years of Life to Unhealthy Habits

 Unhealthy habits—smoking, lack of physical activity, poor diet, and excess alcohol consumption—play a role in about half of deaths in Canada, according to a new study from researchers at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa.

By developing a new tool to take advantage of large data sets from Statistics Canada and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, the team found that unhealthy behaviours shortened life expectancy by an average of six years for both men and women. For men, smoking had the largest impact; for women, it was a lack of physical activity.

Overall, smoking contributed to 26% of all deaths, physical inactivity to 24%, poor diet to 12% and unhealthy alcohol consumption to 0.4%. People who avoided all four unhealthy behaviours had a life expectancy almost 18 years greater than people who had the least healthy behaviours.

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Map of Europe

Cancer Tops Heart Disease as Leading Cause of Death in 12 European Countries

 In 12 European countries, cancer has overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death among men. The same switch occurred for women in two of these countries. However, disparities remain. Overall, in the 53 countries included in the study, cancer caused fewer than half the number of deaths caused by heart disease.

The highest number of deaths from heart disease tended to be seen in Eastern European countries. Countries not part of the European Union (EU) had higher rates of death from heart disease than member states.

Disparities also exist in premature deaths (before age 75), according to the study. In countries that joined the EU before 2005, 21% of premature deaths could be attributed to heart disease, compared to 36% in non-EU members.

Worldwide, more people continue to die from heart disease than from any other cause. In Canada, cancer became the leading cause of death in every province for the first time in 2011. Heart disease remains the leading cause in the United States.

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Reducing the Risk of Brain Injury with TAVI

 As noted previously in The Beat (see “What’s Next for TAVI?”), a recognized complication of transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) is stroke. Material from the calcium deposits in and around the valve can break away during the procedure and travel up the bloodstream to the brain. One possible solution is the use of a filter to capture the debris. A small clinical trial is providing some information on the success of this technique.

In the trial, patients undergoing TAVI who had a protective device implanted during the procedure had fewer incidents of damage to brain tissue than patients who did not get the device and the areas of the brain that were affected were smaller.

The study was small (50 patients in the filter group and 50 controls) and was not designed to assess clinical outcomes. Further, larger studies are needed to see whether preventing strokes in this fashion results in better outcomes following TAVI, explained the study authors.

  • Access the study in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association)
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