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Cardiovascular Disease: Are You at Risk?

What is Cardiovascular Disease?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), also known as heart disease, refers to a group of conditions affecting the structure and functioning of the heart. These conditions include heart attack, stroke, angina, arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation, coronary artery disease, heart failure, and valve disorders, to name a few. Cardiovascular disease is the leading global cause of death, accounting for 17.3 million deaths per year, a number that is anticipated to grow to more than 23.6 million by 2030. In 2012, more than 66,000 Canadians died from heart disease or stroke, amounting to one person every 7 minutes. Heart disease and stroke costs the Canadian economy more than $20.9 billion every year in physician services, hospital costs, lost wages, and decreased productivity.

Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, there are seven main factors – hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and tobacco use – that can increase your risk of CVD. The good news is that most of these risk factors can be controlled, treated, or modified.


Hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure, is the leading cause of CVD worldwide (9.4 million annually). The condition is associated with an unhealthy diet, particularly high dietary sodium. Over time, the tissues that make up the wall of arteries get stretched beyond their healthy limit and become damaged, contributing to cardiovascular conditions such as heart attack and stroke.

  • Overall, hypertension cost over $13 billion in 2010 and the cost is estimated to increase to $20 billion annually by 2020.
  • High blood pressure is called the “Silent Killer” because it often has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not realize they have it. That’s why it’s important to get blood pressure checked regularly.


Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body either cannot produce insulin or cannot properly utilize the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone the body needs to control blood sugar levels and is necessary to allow sugar to be used as a source of fuel in the body. Diabetes leads to high blood sugar levels, which can damage organs, blood vessels, and nerves.

  • In 2008, diabetes was responsible for 1.3 million deaths globally, and there are currently 11 million Canadians living with the disease.
  • Lack of early detection and care for diabetes results in severe complication, including heart attacks, strokes, renal failure, amputations and blindness.

High Cholesterol

An estimated 80% of the cholesterol your body requires for biological processes is made in the liver. The remainder comes from the food we eat daily from sources such as animal products (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and milk products). If the body has too much “bad cholesterol” (LDLs), especially cholesterol from saturated and trans fats (such as those found in fast food), you may be putting your body at risk. The extra dietary cholesterol in your blood may be stored in your arteries and cause them to narrow or become completely blocked.

  • Globally, one third of ischemic heart disease is attributable to high cholesterol.

Tobacco Use

Cigarette smoking is the single most important cause of preventable illness and premature death.

  • Within 2 years of quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is substantially reduced, and within 15 years the risk of CVD returns to that of a non-smoker.


Obesity is a chronic and often progressive condition, similar to diabetes or high blood pressure. The condition is characterized by excess body fat that can threaten or affect your health.

  • A 2010 report estimated that direct costs of overweight and obesity represented $6 billion. This estimate accounts only for health care costs related to obesity, and does not account for productivity, reduction in tax revenues, or psychosocial costs.
  • Obesity is the leading cause of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and cancer.

Physical Inactivity

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults aged 18 years and older should participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every week. Being active can help reduce the risk of premature death, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and obesity and can lead to improved fitness, strength and mental health!

  • Insufficient physical activity is one of the ten leading risk factors for death worldwide.
  • The economic impact of physical inactivity has been estimated at $5.3 billion.

Unhealthy Diet

Consuming a healthy diet throughout life helps prevent malnutrition and chronic disease such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Currently, increased production of processed food that are convenient in nature, as well as rapid urbanization and changing lifestyles have led to a shift in dietary patterns. People are now consuming more foods high in energy, fats, sugars and salt, putting their health at stake.

  • Healthy eating prevents high cholesterol and helps reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

Step one in reducing the risk of developing CVD is learning the facts about its risk factors and how to prevent them. It is also important to note that the disease has unmodifiable risk factors as well, including family history, age and ethnicity. As these factors can’t be changed, it is even more important to manage the behaviours within your control. A reassuring statistic from the World Health Organization suggests that up to 80% of premature heart disease and stoke is preventable by adopting healthy behaviours. Start small, set goals and change your unhealthy lifestyle or habits!

How SureHire can help

SureHire is doing their part to reduce the adverse effects of CVD by embarking on a program to establish the 10-year cardiovascular disease risk of all candidate performing the Fitness-to-Work testing. SureHire is using a predictive tool called the Q-Risk 2. This tool asks various questions about the candidate’s personal and family medical history. The information is entered into an algorithm and the 10-year cardiovascular disease risk percentage is calculated. To learn more about SureHire’s Fitness to Work testing, click here.