Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) affect the circulatory system including the heart and blood vessels. There are six types of CVD. While they are one of the leading causes of death for men and women in Canada, in many cases they are preventable.

Funded projects

Public Health Agency of Canada projects

Cardiovascular Funded Programs at the Public Health Agency of Canada:

Facts and figures

The following information is taken from Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) reports and Statistics Canada:


  • In 2007, 1.3 million Canadians (4.8%) reported having heart disease diagnosed by a health professional.
  • Men are more likely to report having a heart disease than women – 5.3% of men and 4.2% of women.
  • A further 315,000 Canadians reported living with the effects of a stroke in 2009.
  • Since the prevalence rates of heart disease and stroke were obtained from self-reports, the true number of people with these conditions is likely underestimated.
  • Nearly 6 million Canadians aged 20 years and older (22%) were living with diagnosed hypertension in from 2007 to 2009.


  • In 2009, cardiovascular diseases were the second leading cause of death for Canadians, representing 22.7% of all deaths.
  • Men were more likely to die of CVD than women – almost three times higher for those under 65 years of age.
  • Mortality rates for CVD increase dramatically among men at age 45 and among women at age 55.
  • On the other hand, between 1969 and 2004, mortality rates for ischemic heart disease, heart attack and stroke all decreased significantly and combined, major cardiovascular diseases continued this trend through 2009.
  • While the reason for this decrease is not known, it was likely the result of a combination of lower rates of people developing CVD due to a reduction in risk factors and better management of CVD leading to longer survival rates.

Economic burden

  • CVD has a major economic impact in Canada on individuals, their families, communities and the health care system. In 2000, the direct and indirect costs of CVD in Canada were estimated to be $22.2 billion. This was the second highest total cost among all diagnostic categories and only slightly less than musculoskeletal diseases which were the most costly.
  • Costs for CVD included $7.6 billion for health care costs (direct costs), and $14.6 billion for indirect costs resulting from lost economic productivity due to disability or death.

For more facts and figures on CVD


Risk factors

  • Risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (CVD) include: smoking, unhealthy eating, physical inactivity and high levels of stress.
  • People who are overweight or obese, who have hypertension, high cholesterol and/or diabetes are also at higher risk of developing CVD.
  • As the number of risk factors present in an individual increases, so does their risk of developing CVD.
  • Many factors likely contribute to the higher prevalence of CVD risk factors among individuals with low income and/or low education, such as lack of access to healthy foods, which are more costly, and stressful lives, which may lead to unhealthy coping behaviours.

For more information on risk factors:



Many cardiovascular diseases (CVD) can be prevented. Primary prevention activities focus on preventing CVD before it occurs by: stress management, healthy diet, regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight, as well as by not smoking and avoiding alcohol abuse. Controlling diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol are also important in preventing CVD.

For more information on primary prevention:



A number of strategies have been developed to prevent cardiovascular diseases by addressing modifiable risk factors.




The North Karelia project in Finland: A societal shift favouring healthy lifestyles serves as a model in promoting healthy lifestyles as the outcomes of the initiative dropped the mortality rate of coronary heart disease in the region by 85% in 35 years. Institut national de santé publique du Québec (2013).

United Kingdom

The Cardiovascular disease outcomes strategy: Improving outcomes for people with or at risk of cardiovascular disease (PDF document) by the U.K. Department of Health (2013) identifies ten key actions which can deliver the most impact to improve mortality rates and reduce health inequalities of those with, or at risk of cardiovascular disease.

United States

The Public Health action plan to prevent heart disease and stroke is a comprehensive public health strategy based on five components namely: action, capacity building, evaluation, policy, and multi-level partnerships. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013).

World Health Organization

The Population sodium reduction strategies are designed to help achieve the voluntary global NCD target for a 30% relative reduction in mean population intake of salt, with the aim of achieving a target of less than 5 grams per day (approximately 2g sodium) by 2025.



Guidelines on promoting healthy eating, physical activity, tobacco control and preventing alcohol misuse as well as integrated approaches to preventing chronic diseases can be found at the relevant topic pages on this site.

The Canadian Cardiovascular Society’s data definitions and quality indicators project contains data element definitions that reflect national consensus on definitions in multiple areas of cardiovascular disease, treatment and subspecialty expertise.

The Canadian Task on Preventative Health Care’s Screening for hypertension guidelines (2012) provides recommendations for health professionals on screening for hypertension in adults over 18 years old without known hypertension.

The guidelines below are specifically on the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) within public health settings:

British Columbia

In the guidelines, Cardiovascular disease – Primary prevention, the BC Ministry of Health provides recommendations directed at physicians on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in adults who do not have CVD (2014).

Core Public Health Functions for BC: Evidence Review, Chronic Disease (PDF document), Chapter 8, p. 86 describes the evidence for primary prevention of CVD (2010).



Healthy Eating, Physical Activity and Health Weights (PDF document), Ministry of Health Promotion, Government of Ontario (2010).



Risk estimation and the prevention of cardiovascular disease, a national clinical guideline (PDF document) Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (2007).
U.K. Prevention of cardiovascular disease, guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (2010).



Surveillance refers to the systematic, regular collection, analysis and interpretation of data for a given population, to detect changes in patterns of disease or determinants of disease, with action taken if predefined criteria or thresholds are met.


  • Health fact sheets, including blood pressure for children, youth and adults. Statistics Canada. Features short, informative articles on interesting health topics from various health data sources.
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada provides Chronic Disease Infobase Data Cubes which are interactive databases that allow users to create tables and graphs using their web browser and interactive maps providing current statistics on priority chronic disease and risk factor prevalence in Canada as well as for other non-communicable diseases.
  • Data tables from Statistics Canada by subject: Diseases and health conditions, including CVD.
  • Statistics Canada database of surveillance information on CVD.

Provincial/Territorial Data

New Brunswick



International Data

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

United Kingdom

World Health Organisation






Provincial/territorial cardiovascular disease prevention sites


Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Chronic Disease provides provincial Chronic Disease Policy Framework, self-management and links for community action.

Nova Scotia

Prince Edward Island

  • Chronic disease prevention and management section of Health PEI PEI provides provincial leadership, management, policy and program development for chronic disease prevention and management including tips and tools for healthy living aimed at the general public.

Tools and resources

  • Public Health Agency of Canada‘s cardiovascular disease (CVD) web site has information on risk factors, managing cardiovascular disease, initiatives, strategies and programs
  • Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada site provides information for health professionals and Canadians.
  • Hypertension Canada provides information, education and recommendations for health care professionals and the public in a variety of multimedia formats.

Systematic Reviews of the Literature