Your donation at work

Heart & Stroke donors and volunteers supported these advances in 2020

When we beat as one, we accomplish so much.

Thanks to the generosity of donors and volunteers, in fiscal 2020 Heart & Stroke invested $21.8 million in life-saving research, and $34.6 million in health promotion and community programs. These highlights show what those investments achieved, grouped under five key result areas.

1. Addressing the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19 

Since the advent of COVID-19, Heart & Stroke has worked relentlessly to address the new reality and needs of people impacted by stroke, heart conditions and vascular cognitive impairment. The pandemic forced us to transform the ways we work with partners, support people living with these diseases and their care supporters, and provide the public with trusted information. Here are some of the ways:

  • Providing trusted information: Our evidence-based information on the connections between COVID-19, heart disease and stroke became a key resource during an unprecedented time. During just over a month in spring, 2020, nearly 1 million people in Canada accessed our website and there were more than 100,000 views of our main COVID-19 resource page.  

  • Supporting health professionals and people with lived experience: We offered 18 dedicated webinars (12 in English, six in French) on a variety of issues to support health professionals in responding to COVID-19 and to support people impacted by stroke, heart conditions, and vascular cognitive impairment during these difficult times. These online learning events focused on practical tools and topics, such as virtual rehabilitation and mental health while social distancing. The webinars received positive feedback and have been viewed more than 16,500 times in total.

  • Pivoting our approach to address new needs: With the closure of schools, Heart & Stroke found an innovative way to reach children with our curriculum resource that promotes heart and brain healthy habits, HeartSmart Kids. HeartSmart Kids at Home was launched to empower families to continue the learning at home. By Aug. 31, 2020, more than 20,000 activity sheets were downloaded and work continues to further increase the program’s accessibility and engagement for children.   

2. Funding medical breakthroughs

In 2020, Heart & Stroke supported 818 researchers in medical institutes, universities, hospitals and communities across Canada in 2020. Here are just a few of their achievements: 

  • Advancing the success of heart transplants: Research led by Dr. Sharon Chih looks at the early detection of cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV), a leading cause of poor long-term outcomes after heart transplant. She is determined to detect CAV sooner and give more healthy years to recipients of heart transplants. 

  • Pioneering discoveries through a health equity lens: Research by Dr. Heather Foulds focuses on the social and cultural factors that impact the heart and brain health of Indigenous women, who are more than twice as likely as non-Indigenous women to die from these diseases. The goal is to explore ways to improve prevention, detection, and treatment. 

  • Finding new pathways in stroke recovery: Research by Dr. Yu Tian Wang is uncovering drugs that could save your brain cells after a stroke. The neuroprotection offered by these treatments could prevent cell death and devastating brain damage, improving recovery after a stroke. 

  • Using genetics to beat heart attacks: Research led by Dr. Guillaume Paré has identified genetic variants linked with an increased risk of heart attack at an early age. Identifying risk earlier will open doors to more ways to prevent this devastating condition.

Heart & Stroke has a rich history of medical breakthroughs. Have a look at nearly 70 years of our researchers’ achievements in Milestones that Matter

3.  Preventing disease

Heart & Stroke strives to create the healthiest conditions and environments so more people in Canada of all ages live healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke.

The problem: Lifestyles are putting individuals’ long-term health at risk for heart disease and stroke. 

  • 9 in 10 people in Canada have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke. 

  • 8 in 10 cases (or 80%) of premature heart disease and stroke are preventable through healthy lifestyle behaviours. 

  • Most youth and adults in Canada need to eat more fruit and vegetables (over 70% of kids aged 12-17 and adults 18 and older do not eat at least five servings daily). 

  • Most children should get more physical activity (approximately 60% of children aged 5-17 do not get the recommended minimum of 60 minutes a day). 

  • Adults are not active enough (only 16% accumulate the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity). 

Our progress in 2020:

  • Getting kids active: In the 2019-2020 school year, Heart & Stroke partnered with over 1,800 educators across the country to reach more than 60,000 students from Kindergarten to Grade 6 with our free resource, HeartSmart Kids, which educates children about heart- and brain-healthy habits. In response to COVID-19, we launched a new printable version of this resource to be available to children at home. And we continue to find the most impactful ways to positively influence children’s health as we work on digitizing HeartSmart Kids to increase access and engagement.

  • Influencing healthy public policy: 

  • Heart & Stroke led advocacy for key actions to curb the vaping crisis among youth — actions that include restrictions on marketing and promotion of vaping products, a comprehensive ban on vape flavours and additives, and limits on nicotine content. A key success in 2020 was the passing of federal regulations on promotion, labelling and packaging of vaping products. In addition, there was significant traction across the country with a total of 11 policy measures adopted in six provinces that will help protect youth and people in Canada from the harms of vaping/tobacco. 

  • After dedicated advocacy work from Heart & Stroke, Manitoba’s provincial government committed funding to begin building the province’s first acute stroke unit, which will increase vital access to specialized and integrated stroke care. 

  • In partnership with a national coalition, Heart & Stroke advocated for the development and implementation of an equitable and universal pharmacare program. We support a program designed to improve access to cost-effective medicines for all people in Canada regardless of gender, geography, age, or ability to pay. We were also the only health charity to promote the passage and accompanying guidelines of the Patented Medicines Regulations, which limit drug prices in Canada. 

  • Advancing gender equity in heart and brain health: Since launching the Women’s Heart and Brain Health Initiative in 2016, Heart & Stroke has sought to stimulate dialogue about heart disease and stroke in women, address sex and gender disparities in prevention and management, and ultimately transform and save women’s lives through strategic capacity building, research, and knowledge exchange. In 2020, the Women’s Heart and Brain Health Research Network, founded by Heart & Stroke, grew by more than 20% to 182 members. The network brings together researchers, healthcare providers, decision-makers and women with lived experience to share their expertise. Almost 2/3 of surveyed members say it has increased their capacity to conduct research on women’s heart and brain health.

4.  Saving lives

The problem: Too many people in Canada are dying from heart disease and stroke. 

  • Heart conditions and stroke are the second leading cause of death in Canada. 

  • One person dies in Canada every five minutes from heart conditions, stroke or vascular cognitive impairment.

  • Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency causing death if not immediately treated. 

  • An estimated 35,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen each year in Canada – that’s one every 15 minutes. 

  • Nine in 10 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests result in death.

  • An estimated 62,000 strokes occur in Canada each year. 

  • The faster someone experiencing a stroke gets to the right hospital and receives appropriate treatment, the better their likelihood for survival and recovery — with little or no disability. 

Our progress in 2020:

  • Leading resuscitation education: Heart & Stroke is a founding member, and the only Canadian member, of the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR). Through this global collaboration, we establish the Canadian guidelines for resuscitation for both adult and pediatric populations, which underpins all CPR training in Canada. In October 2020 we launched the official Heart & Stroke 2020 Guidelines for CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC) and the 2020 Guidelines for First Aid based on the latest research and input from Canadian subject matter experts. This knowledge supports training for emergency physicians, cardiologists, other healthcare providers, and the general public. 

  • Teaching people in Canada to save lives: Since introducing CPR to Canada in 1976, Heart & Stroke has worked with partners each year to train health professionals and everyday Canadians in basic CPR and first aid. In 2020 Heart & Stroke trained nearly 10,000 resuscitation instructors who in turn trained thousands more, issuing more than 315,000 certifications for resuscitation courses. These courses provide health professionals, first responders, and the general public with skills that can save lives.    

  • Guiding stroke care: Working with experts, Heart & Stroke closely monitors scientific evidence and produces the Canadian Stroke Best Practice Recommendations, which are relied on by healthcare professionals for up-to-date guidance on preventing, treating and managing stroke. In 2020, our Stroke Best Practices website was accessed by over 89,000 users and there were more than 35,000 downloads of our resources. In 2020 the team produced three updated guidelines that cover: rehabilitation and recovery following stroke, transitions and community participation following stroke, and the use of ASA for prevention of vascular events. In updating the recommendations, Heart & Stroke launched a new model of engaging people with lived experience, resulting in increased emphasis on the patient perspective.  

  • Strengthening leadership in the cardiac space: Heart & Stroke has built strong relationships with the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, Hypertension Canada, Diabetes Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada. We have now expanded our activity and reach with strong new partnerships and collaborations with leading experts and organizations. Together we are working to understand current resources, and advance systems of care, access and equity, in order to improve outcomes for people living with or at risk of heart disease and cardiac arrest. We meet regularly with heart-focused systems planners across Canada. We are a catalyst for change in heart failure, by working closely with people living with heart failure, their caregivers, researchers and health professionals, including HeartLife Foundation, Canadian Heart Failure Society, Quebec Heart Failure Society and the World Heart Federation. Together we are finding solutions to gaps in care and support. We recognize and raise awareness of the health inequities and outcomes for women with heart conditions and lead the Canadian Women’s Heart and Brain Research Network to increase awareness, fund research and ensure women receive evidence-based, timely and effective diagnosis and care. 

  • Providing trusted health information and leading the monitoring of health system performance data: Heart & Stroke strives to provide credible health information related to heart disease, stroke and vascular cognitive impairment, and also closely monitors health services and quality of heart and stroke care data in Canada to inform our system change strategy and work. For example, in 2019 we completed an inventory of stroke services in hospitals across Canada. This data pointed to a need for virtual stroke care and services, and the data continues to inform our ongoing work with partners in each province to address gaps and system changes. 

5. Enhancing recovery

Heart & Stroke contributes contributes to the increase of quality of life by enhancing supports for survivors and their caregivers when it is most needed. 

The problem: An estimated 1.6 million people in Canada and their families are living with the effects of heart disease and stroke. Their most urgent needs include: 

  • Support during the transition from hospital — a critical time for getting started on recovery and reducing risk of a future event. 

  • Support for caregivers — including the more than one in four people in Canada who report providing care to a family member or friend with a chronic illness, disability or aging needs. 

Our progress in 2020: 

  • Engaging people with lived experience: Through our e-registry network, over 2,300 people who have experienced heart conditions or stroke, and their caregivers or care partners received practical information and resources to support recovery and wellness. This is a notable increase of 63% from 2019. 

  • Connecting to communities of support: Heart & Stroke’s two online groups, Community of Survivors (2,300 members in total, from 1,800 in 2019) and Care Supporters’ Community (introduced in 2018 and now at 650 members) continued to grow and be active. These peer-led support groups are a place where people who have experienced heart disease or stroke, or their care supporters, can find social and emotional support, as well as share their experiences, information and tips for life after a diagnosis, stroke or cardiac event. 

  • Providing resources: In 2020, our free comprehensive guides designed to help survivors and their families — Your Stroke Journey, Living Well with Heart Disease and Living with Heart Failure — were each distributed to more than 39,000, 47,000 and 37,000 patients respectively in both English and French, often at the time of discharge or follow-up appointments with healthcare providers. Find these and other publications here

See our financial statements.

Learn more about Heart & Stroke research