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Men's Health Care

Do You Know Men’s Primary Risk Factors for Heart Disease?

Dr. Nicolas Noiseux

Cardiac Surgeon, Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal; Spokesperson, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada


Many risk factors for heart disease can be controlled — but social determinants can create challenging hurdles.

Every 17 minutes in Canada, a man dies of heart disease. It’s the second leading cause of death among men.

June is Men’s Health Month in Canada, and it’s critical for men to take care of their heart health. And while there are many different forms of heart disease, the risk factors for these conditions are often very similar.

Knowing the risks 

Nine in ten Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease or stroke. Some of these risk factors include lifestyle behaviours such as high stress levels, smoking, drug and alcohol consumption, a diet without a variety of healthy foods that’s high in processed foods, and a lack of physical activity. More than a third of men aged 20 and older have two or more of the most important behavioral risk factors.

Many factors can affect heart and brain health. Social determinants such as income level and ethnicity contribute to an even greater risk of men developing heart disease. For example, men in low-income households are 46 per cent more likely to have two or more risk factors for heart disease. And men who are unemployed are 61 per cent more likely to have self-reported heart disease, compared to those who are actively employed.

Advocating for equal access

Ethnicity can also influence the risk of heart disease. First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, as well as those of South Asian or African descent, are more likely to have high blood pressure or diabetes. Overlapping factors such as discrimination, language barriers, and institutional racism can also impact the risk of heart disease and access to proper care.

Other risk factors that cannot be controlled include age, gender, genetics, and personal circumstances — meaning the inability to mitigate lifestyle behaviours as a result of societal barriers.

Almost 80 per cent of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented, but it’s critical to note that we cannot better prevent heart disease and stroke without ensuring that everyone in Canada has equal access to health care services, safe environments, healthy food, and safe drinking water without barriers. Addressing this will require policy and systems changes at all levels.

I encourage everyone to learn more about their individual risk factors and to speak with their primary health care provider should they have any questions about their risks or family history.


To learn more about risk factors for heart disease, visit heartandstroke.ca/heart-disease.

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