News release: Study points way to post-pandemic healthcare planning

Analysis shows cardiovascular, stroke and vascular cognitive impairment hospitalization trends over 10 years

(Ottawa) — A new Heart & Stroke-led analysis published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology provides a valuable starting point for post-COVID-19 health systems planning and recovery. The paper reveals hospitalization trends for 10 years prior to the pandemic for heart conditions, stroke and vascular cognitive impairment (VCI). Together these conditions are the leading cause of death in Canada and they put people more at risk of becoming very ill and dying if they contract COVID-19. 

“COVID-19 has disrupted the healthcare system and will have lasting implications,” says Dr. Cindy Yip, Director, Data Knowledge Management and Heart Program, Heart & Stroke. “Our study shows the services and care utilization in place before the pandemic; more than 2.6 million hospitalizations for heart disease, stroke and VCI over 10 years. This information is more important than ever as provinces and territories start reopening health and community support services while still treating existing and new patients with COVID-19.” 

Although prevalence of the conditions has remained relatively constant, the number of hospitalizations for some conditions have decreased while others have increased.

“This analysis shows the variation over time that heart and brain conditions are resulting in both more and fewer hospitalizations. Both the rates and the actual numbers highlight where improvements are required and where we are having success”, says Dr. Michael Hill, stroke neurologist, University of Calgary. “And while the decreases in hospitalizations are encouraging, the data highlight certain vulnerable populations such as the elderly, and differences between men and women, showing us where future efforts can be made in disease prevention and service integration.”

Hospitalization rates for vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) have increased in large part due to the aging of the population. At the same time some diseases are happening more often in younger people than ten years ago:

  • Heart failure increased in both men and women ages 20-39 years.
  • Heart valve disease increased significantly in women ages 20-39 years.
  • Stroke increased for women in the same age bracket by 25% likely due to an increase in stroke risk during pregnancy.

Hospitalization rates for coronary artery and vascular disease, heart failure, heart rhythm disorders, and stroke have decreased overall. Fewer hospitalizations are partially the result of people receiving their care in other places, for example at clinics or self-managed at home. Some of the decreases could also be attributed to an increase in public awareness and better disease prevention through smoking cessation, good nutrition and adequate physical activity.

For more information on the coronavirus, heart disease and stroke visit All Heart & Stroke offices are closed as we seek to protect everyone’s health during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are still working virtually, remaining active and committed to our communities. Essential services like our call centres, website, online donations and online communities continue.

For more information

Megan Radford
Heart & Stroke

About Heart & Stroke

Life. We don’t want you to miss it. That’s why Heart & Stroke leads the fight against heart disease and stroke. We must generate the next medical breakthroughs, so people in Canada don’t miss out on precious moments. Together, we are working to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery through research, health promotion and public policy.