The CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation in this province says a recent study shows people living in rural areas have a harder time eating healthily.
George Tilley, chief executive officer of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Newfoundland and Labrador division, was responding to a survey released Tuesday by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.
That survey shows 64 per cent of Atlantic Canadians said they can’t afford to eat healthily.
Tilley said the report deals with perceived and real barriers to healthy living. The cost of healthy foods, unfortunately, is a real barrier, especially in remote and rural regions where people can’t get access to healthy food choices and the cost of transportation affects food prices.
People in Labrador, in particular, face challenges in getting fresh food, Tilley said.
He said this is an area where governments can study the problems further and make investments to reduce costs and improve access to healthy food.
The survey questioned more than 2,000 adults across the country about physical activity and healthy eating habits to prevent, postpone or treat heart disease and stroke.
Eight out of 10 said they knew the importance of healthy lifestyle choices, but 57 per cent said they faced barriers in achieving physical activity and dietary goals. Among the overall participants, 47 per cent cited the high cost of fruits and vegetables as a barrier to healthy eating.
More than 70 per cent said food service outlets don’t have enough fruit and vegetable options. More than 50 per cent said there are too many fast-food outlets in their communities, lacking healthy options and 41 per cent said healthy meals take too long to prepare.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends in its report that all sectors — government, industry and non-government organizations — must implement a number of measures, including initiatives to assist low-income Canadians to access healthy food, agricultural policies and subsidies that can make fruit and vegetables more affordable and accessible, and more access to stores with healthy food options in low-income neighbourhoods.
Barriers to physical activity were also addressed in the report, with lack of time cited as the leading barrier.
Out of all respondents, 76 per cent said various barriers prevent them from being physically active. The comparable Atlantic rate citing barriers was 78 per cent.
Long work days and lack of time were cited by 46 per cent of all respondents as reasons for not being active on a regular basis. Work, family and other obligations were cited by 44 per cent, 31 per cent said the time they would like to spend being physically active is, instead, spent commuting to and from work and 52 per cent said they lacked motivation to be physically active or to live a healthier lifestyle.
Dr. Beth Abramson, cardiologist and spokeswoman with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, said “These results are not encouraging.”
But she suggests even small amounts of time spent in sedentary leisure activities could easily be devoted to more active and healthy pursuits.
Twenty-nine per cent of participants 20 and older said they watch TV 15 or more hours a week, while 15 per cent said they use a computer 11 or more hours a week.
“What it comes down to with all of us sometimes is lack of motivation,” Tilley said.
Even 10-minute stints of physical activity is better than doing nothing, he said.
Tilley said the Heart and Stroke Foundation hopes to do more to bring attention to healthy lifestyle issues and has set a goal to reduce mortality from heart attack and stroke by 25 per cent by 2020.
He said when people talk about not having time for physical activity, they can look to Premier Kathy Dunderdale as a good example of someone who found time to make some healthy choices.
“She’s fitter, she’s got more energy and she’s really shown personal leadership,” he said.
Tilley said Dunderdale is “one person that Heart and Stroke hears a lot about with people saying, if that lady can achieve the results that she did with her schedule then I should be able to do something too. She’s an inspiration.”
Tilley said he hopes the report will facilitate discussion about healthy living.
The foundation, he said, is encouraging everyone in a national campaign to take some initiative between now and the end of February 2012 to lead a healthy life, whether it’s eating better, quitting smoking, reducing their sodium intake or becoming more active.
The foundation also invites Canadians to visit its website (www.reg.heartandstroke.ca) and join the movement “to make death wait” by logging their healthy actions.