Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in Canada. With Project Big Life, researchers from The Ottawa Hospital are shedding light on why. This past summer they launched an online questionnaire to help Canadians determine their risk for heart attack and stroke, based on lifestyle choices.

How many times did you have fruit juice in the last week? Potatoes? How many hours of high-intensity, moderate or low-intensity activity did you perform? Oh, and how many times did you consume alcohol over the past week?

Don’t worry, it’s all confidential as senior scientist Dr. Doug Manuel had reported to CBC Ottawa Morning host Robyn Bresnahan. “We’re researchers right, so we have to adhere to our research privacy. We don’t even keep your IP address, postal code or anything like that. So we don’t know who’s doing it.”


That being said, I’m happy to report that my heart age was calculated at a little younger than my chronological age at the time — compared to a healthy Canadian — and nearly half my age when compared to an average Canadian. Yes, the survey factors in age, sex, weight and height but it’s lifestyle on which the researchers want folks to focus.

“It’s really to inform you what your risks are. For me, as a public health researcher, it’s about really changing your environment. So everyone wants to eat better and exercise more — but we’re not,” Manuel pointed out.

The tool also offers a calculator for life expectancy. I faired well with twice my age at the time.

Where I hadn’t faired so well? The sodium calculator. Based on what I reported eating, I was likely consuming 29 per cent over 2300 mg a day — the max for my age at the time. And the report helpfully cited the issue: eating out too much. I brought my lunch the very next day.

What’s gets measured gets done or, in this case, gets modified.

At the end of surveys, respondents are given the option to share their results through social media. It may help them move the needle, Manuel noted.

“We know that you’re motivated if you make goals for yourself. That will increase your chances of meeting your targets,” he said, adding. “And you’ll be even more motivated if you share your goals with others.”