Q. Why are potatoes and fruit juice “bad” and carrots “good”?
A. The Canada Food Guide for kids says to make your plate a colourful variety of vegetables. Carrots are not only a highly consumed orange vegetable but are more likely to be consumed by people who have colourful plates with other healthy vegetables. Similarly, it is not necessarily that potatoes are unhealthy, but that high potato consumption is seen in people whose diet is less healthy than others. Our study, like many others, found an association between greater consumption of potatoes or fruit juice and unhealthy outcome.

Q. Why doesn’t the diet questions take into account fat, sugar, meat, dairy, etc.?
A. Our calculator uses fruit and vegetables as a broad measure of diet quality. Our biggest constraint was the underlying data that we use to generate our risk algorithms that had only six brief diet questions. However, like many other studies, we found that there is a strong link between fruit and vegetable consumption and health outcomes. We hope to update the calculator in the future to include more details about diet.

Q. None of the activities I participate in are listed in your calculator so how can I assess my physical activity?
A. We have divided the physical activity questions into three intensity groups and provided examples that reflect the typical energy cost of the activities. Vigorous-intensity activities are those that require a large amount of effort and cause rapid breathing and a substantial increase in heart rate – you can’t talk or your talking is broken up by large breaths. Moderate-intensity activities require a moderate amount of effort and your heart beats faster than normal – you can talk but not sing. Light activities cause your heart to beat slightly faster than normal – you can still talk and sing. If your activity isn’t listed, assess the level of intensity based on the above descriptions and add your hours to the appropriate group.

Q. Why does it seem like you don't take BMI into account in determining expected life expectancy?
A. In our study, we chose to focus on upstream determinants of health - diet and physical activity - which lead to the intermediate risk factors (e.g., obesity) and health outcomes. Taking this into account, only very high BMI affects life expectancy.

Q. Why does the calculator not include questions about cancer?
A. Currently, we don't have data to provide more accurate estimates for people with a history of cancer diagnosis. We are hoping to include this in future updates.

Q. Does the calculator include high blood pressure in “heart disease”?
A. No, high blood pressure is a separate risk factor from heart disease.

Q. Why does the calculator include postal code?
A. Our calculator uses postal code to identify neighbourhoods with high or low material/social support. As well, postal code is used to estimate your exposure to air pollution. People in poorer socioeconomic circumstances generally have poorer health. Deprivation measures identify those who experience material or social disadvantage compared to others.

Q. Where do the target recommendations come from?
A. Physical activity: Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines www.csep.ca
Fruits and Vegetables: Canada’s Food Guide www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Alcohol: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines www.ccsa.ca
Smoking: Health Canada Tobacco Scientific Facts www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Body Mass Index: Canadian Guidelines for Body Weight Classification in Adults www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Air Pollution: There are no well established targets for Canada. We calculate your life expectancy lost for air pollution as the excess mortality above the 25th percentile Canadian exposure. These levels are: 6.0 ppb Nitrogen dioxide (NO2); µg/m3 6.0 ug/M3 for articulate matter (PM2.5); 34.3 for ppb Ozone (O3)."

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