Canada is on the edge of a “perfect storm” when it comes to heart disease, and the country’s leading cardiovascular health organization says Nova Scotians aren’t doing a good job of battening down the hatches.

In its Annual Report on Canadians’ Health released yesterday, the Heart and Stroke Foundation says fewer than half of all adults in the province are maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular physical activity, or eating enough fruits and veggies.

In overall health behaviour, Nova Scotia ranked a dismal ninth out of 13 provinces and territories.

“It’s not a surprise to me,” said Dr. Michael Love, a cardiologist at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax. “We’re seeing people in their 20s and 30s with heart attacks now, commonly. Even in the 10 years that I’ve been in practice, I’ve seen a change ... especially in young females.”

On a national level, the foundation’s report paints a bleak picture of the next few decades — predicting heart disease will begin plaguing Canadians both young and old in every part of the country. Along with increases in obesity and high blood pressure among young adults, and a “full-blown cardiovascular crisis” among Canada’s aboriginal populations, the aging baby boomer generation is now experiencing a decline in heart health, it says.

For the Atlantic provinces, which have the oldest populations in the country, it all amounts to a ticking time bomb, Love said.

“Unless something changes, the burden of heart disease and stroke is going to outstrip our ability to pay for it,” he said. “The financial implications are absolutely massive.”

According to Love, the province could lessen that burden by implementing new initiatives to educate the public about proper diet and the importance of exercise. But, ultimately, he said, you can’t force people to change their habits.

“People have to take responsibility for their own health. That’s it.”

Disappointing numbers

• Heart health behaviour in Nova Scotia by the numbers (according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation):
• 52.4 per cent of Nova Scotians are not getting enough exercise to maintain their health
• 61.6 per cent are not at a healthy weight
• 64.2 per cent are not eating the recommended number of fruits and vegetables each day