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Heart & Stroke donors and volunteers supported these advances in 2017

Together with you, Heart & Stroke is saving moments, funding breakthroughs and saving lives. Everything we do is aimed at reducing the death rate and risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke. Your support makes it all possible.

In fiscal 2017 we invested $32.6 million in life-saving research, and $38.0 million in advocacy and health promotion initiatives. These highlights show what those investments achieved, grouped under the four key result areas we use to measure impact.

1. Funding medical breakthroughs

Heart & Stroke supported more than 800 researchers in medical institutes, universities, hospitals and communities across Canada in 2017. Here are just a few of their achievements: 

  • Helping women heal: Research by Dr. Sherry Grace reveals the complex factors influencing when and how women access life-saving cardiac rehabilitation — and points the way to helping more women make a stronger recovery from heart events. 
  • Shielding the brain from stroke damage: Dr. Michael Tymianski’s team pursues ways to accelerate delivery of NA-1, a drug that can prevent brain damage in the minutes and hours after stroke. 
  • Closing in on a killer: Dr. Jacqueline Saw is leading the way to understanding — and one day preventing — SCAD, a mysterious condition that causes heart attacks in young and otherwise healthy women.
  • Reactivating brain circuits after stroke: Research by Dr. Craig Brown shows how light therapy could help people regain sensation and movement after a stroke. 
  • Tackling Indigenous health challenges: As the BC First Nations Health Authority Chair in Heart Health and Wellness — a global first co-funded by Heart & Stroke donors — Dr. Jeff Reading works to foster collaboration and drive research aimed at narrowing the gap in Indigenous health.

Heart & Stroke has a rich history of medical breakthroughs. Have a look at more than 60 years of our researchers’ achievements in Milestones that Matter.

2. Preventing disease 

Heart & Stroke works to empower Canadians of all ages to learn about and establish healthy lifestyle choices. 

Our goal is to reduce key risk factors for heart disease and stroke, including high blood pressure, obesity, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity and smoking. 

The problem: Canadians’ lifestyles are putting their long-term health at risk. For example:

  • Most children need to eat more fruit and vegetables (55% of Canadian kids aged 12-19 do not eat at least five servings daily, the minimum recommended).
  • Most children should get more physical activity (fewer than one in 10 aged 2-17 get the recommended minimum of 60 minutes a day).
  • Too many adults eat an unhealthy diet (60% of those aged 19 and up do not eat at least seven servings of fruit and vegetables daily, the minimum recommended).
  • Adults are not active enough (only 15% accumulate the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity).

Our progress in 2017:

Getting kids active: In the 2016-17 school year Heart & Stroke Jump Rope for Heart engaged more than 950,000 kids in 3,415 schools across Canada to get active and learn about healthy living. This is comparable to more than 919,000 children in 3,340 schools in the 2015-16 school year, more than 977,200 children in 3,660 schools in 2014-15, and 877,400 children in 3,770 schools in 2013-14.

Influencing healthy policy: In 2017, Heart & Stroke continued to play an instrumental role in redefining the nutrition landscape in Canada. 

  • Health Canada announced measures to ban artificial trans fats in all food sold in Canada, as part of the Healthy Eating Strategy. Heart & Stroke helped drive this change over more than a decade, starting as co-chair of a federal trans fats task force that recommended eliminating industrially produced fats, and successfully influencing the British Columbia provincial government in 2009 to regulate trans fats in its food service sector.
  • Heart & Stroke commissioned new research showing that Canadians are the second largest buyers of ultra-processed foods and drinks in the world, second only to Americans. This finding supports our call for stronger food policies and guidelines, including mandatory front-of-package nutrition labelling, as well as revisions that will strengthen and modernize the Food Guide and Indigenous Food Guides.
  • As co-chair of the Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition, Heart & Stroke proudly led advocacy efforts to ensure the successful passing of Bill S-228 through the Senate; it is currently being debated in the House of Commons. This bill, which will restrict unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children. Our 2017 Heart Report, The Kids are Not Alright, made a powerful case for such restrictions, generating an unprecedented 100 million media impressions and getting Canadians talking, with a summary of the evidence showing how advertising influences children’s food and beverage preferences.

3. Saving lives

Heart & Stroke works to enable faster, better cardiac emergency and stroke response and treatment.

The problem: Too many Canadians are dying from sudden cardiac arrest and stroke.

  • Sudden cardiac arrest is a medical emergency causing death if not immediately treated; an estimated 40,000 occur each year in Canada.
  • Up to 85% of cardiac arrests happen outside of hospitals, in homes and public spaces, where the chance of surviving is a dismal 10%.
  • Stroke is the third leading cause of death in Canada, and a leading cause of disability; there are an estimated 62,000 strokes 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 2017:

  • Leading resuscitation education: Heart & Stroke co-authors the Emergency Cardiovascular Care and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Guidelines, which underpin all CPR training in Canada. In 2017 we trained more than 323,000 clinicians, first responders, and other personnel across Canada to update their skills for responding to cardiac emergencies, compared to nearly 315,000 trained in 2016, 219,000 in 2015 and 266,000 in 2014.
  • Teaching Canadians to save lives: Since introducing CPR to Canada in 1976, Heart & Stroke works with partners each year to train everyday Canadians in basic CPR and first aid. In 2017 we trained more than 215,000 lay rescuers and others, comparable to the 216,000 trained in 2016, 221,000 in 2015 and 225,000 in 2014.
  • 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. Important advances in 2017 were guidelines for preventing a second stroke and for preventing stroke in women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant.
  • Raising stroke awareness: Through our campaigns to publicize the FAST signs of stroke, more people recognize a stroke and know to act quickly to reduce the damage it can cause. In 2017, the FAST campaign was especially successful in Quebec. Surveys before and after showed unaided awareness among Quebecers rose considerably, with 71% of respondents indicating they knew any one of the three signs (vs. 54% pre-campaign), 37% knew any two of three signs (vs. 22% pre-campaign), and 13% knew all three signs (vs. 5% pre-campaign).

4. Promoting recovery

Heart & Stroke contributes to increasing quality of life by enhancing supports for survivors and their care partners when it is most needed.

The problem: An estimated 1.6 million Canadians 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 Canadians who report providing care to a family member or friend with a chronic illness, disability or aging needs.

Our progress in 2017:

Engaging survivors:

  • In 2017, Heart & Stroke launched its online Community of Survivors  to 300 people who have experienced heart disease or stroke. This peer-led support group is a place where survivors can find social and emotional support, as well as share their experiences, information and tips for life after a diagnosis, stroke or cardiac event.
  • Through our e-registry network, Heart & Stroke continued to engage over 900 people who have experienced heart disease, heart failure or stroke, and their caregivers. This is an increase over 785 individuals in 2016, and nearly 700 individuals when launched in 2015.
  • More than 500 survivors and care partners attended our Living with Stroke program in communities across Canada, compared to more than 800 people in 2016, 560 in 2015 and more than 400 in 2014. The LWS program is currently undergoing a redesign. 

Providing resources:

  • In 2017, we provided more than 34,800 copies of Your Stroke Journey – a free comprehensive guide designed to help stroke survivors and their families understand the effects of stroke and manage their recovery. This represents coverage of an estimated 70% of all hospital admissions for stroke across Canada*, compared to last year’s 33,900 copies and coverage of an estimated 68% of all hospital admissions for stroke across Canada. 
  • In 2017, we provided more than 48,000 copies of Living Well with Heart Disease, a free comprehensive recovery guide. This represents coverage of an estimated 44% of all hospital admissions for ischemic heart disease across Canada*, compared to last’s year’s 42,500 copies and coverage of an estimated 39% of all hospital admissions for ischemic heart disease across Canada.
  • Read our Report to Donors.
  • See our financial statements.
  • Learn more about Heart & Stroke research

* Figures do not include data from Québec.