(Photo retrieved from Pixabay).

A snapshot of heart disease and stroke in Eastern Ontario

One in three senior Ontarians are dropping their blood thinning medication within six months of their first prescription. This is leading to an increased risk of a stroke, transient ischemic attack or death by 80 per cent. That’s according to a study published last week by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

The blood thinners in question are dabigatran and rivaroxaban, two drugs usually prescribed to help prevent stroke in people with an irregular heartbeat.

Researchers followed about 26,000 seniors in Ontario who were prescribed the medication between 1998 and 2014. The two drugs are known as NOACs, or novel oral anticoagulants, a term that essentially means the drugs are more convenient because they aren’t affected as much by diet or other drugs.

Heart and Stroke overall

Here at the Review, we wanted to find out how heart disease and stroke affects Eastern Ontario—a task more difficult than anticipated.

Based on the 2011 Atlas of Cardiovascular Health in the Champlain Region, counties in Eastern Ontario are “known ‘hot spots’ for cardiovascular disease.”  

The latest numbers we found were from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s Health Indicator, in the Chronic Disease chapter. The data itself goes up to 2009, with the report last updated in 2013.

Below is a quick summary .

In the future

The EOHU’s report shows declining numbers for heart disease, heart attacks and stroke—but not necessarily for long. The Atlas mentioned above predicts more cases as the population is growing older.

Due to a lack of data, we still don’t know.

“We don’t have any really specific programs that are targeted to any diseases,” says Lysanne Trudeau, the Program Manager of Chronic Disease Prevention with the Eastern Ontario Health Unit. “What we do, like say (when it comes to) nutrition or physical activity, is to say to everybody you should be eating better, and that would help prevent in the long run.”

For a glance at what factors can influence your chances of stroke, the Ontario Stroke Network has a page for “stroke factors you can control.”

Sean Gehring says prevention will be key.

“I think we need to do a better job of getting the message out there to people,” says Gehring, the director of the Champlain Regional Stroke Network.

That message is educating people on the risks of not taking their medication, but also “how can we create a healthier public so that you’re not getting to the clinic in the first place,” says Gehring.

Without recent numbers, it’s hard to get a clear picture of how heart disease and stroke affect people today in Eastern Ontario; getting that data may be the first step in education and prevention.