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Heart & Stroke donors and volunteers supported these advances in 2018

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.

Volunteer advisors play a crucial role in helping set our course for maximum impact. Our six Mission Critical Area (MCA) councils and our Council on Mission: Priorities, Advice, Science and Strategy (CoMPASS), each composed of researchers, clinicians, policy makers and people with lived experience, provide disease-specific and integrated advisory input into key issues and priority areas for Heart & Stroke to consider in order to have the greatest impact on people at risk of or living with heart disease and stroke.

In fiscal 2018 we invested $33.2 million in life-saving research, and $42.8 million in health promotion and community programs. These highlights show what those investments achieved, grouped under the four key result areas we use to measure impact.

1. Funding medical breakthroughs

Since launching the Women’s Heart and Brain Health initiative in 2016, Heart & Stroke has funded 15 researchers from 11 institutions in five provinces, made possible thanks to an initial $5 million investment from the 2016 Canadian Federal budget along with significant philanthropic support. In 2018, Heart & Stroke leveraged an additional $3.5 million through partnerships with Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Institute of Indigenous Peoples Health, Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health, and Institute of Gender and Health and New Brunswick Health Research Foundation (NBHRF) — together, we awarded four chairs in women’s heart and brain health in fall 2018.

In addition, Heart & Stroke supported 750 researchers in medical institutes, universities, hospitals and communities across Canada in 2018. Here are just a few of their achievements:

  • Advancing women’s heart and brain health: Research led by Dr. Margie Davenport shows that regular physical activity during pregnancy dramatically reduces the risk of serious pregnancy complications — which in turn has the potential to help women prevent or delay the onset of cardiovascular disease later in life.
  • Pioneering discoveries through a sex and gender lens: Research by Dr. Thais Coutinho  on the elasticity of the aorta reveals differences in how a potentially deadly aneurysm progresses in women and men — and how it could be treated.
  • Finding new pathways in stroke recovery: Research by Dr. Christiane Hoppmann looks at stroke survivors and their partners to investigate how tackling health behaviour changes together — such as eating a healthier diet — can help improve recovery after a stroke and reduce the risk of a future incident.
  • Breaking ground for patients with heart failure: Research led by Dr. Gavin Oudit has identified a key molecule that accounts for about 20% of all cases of heart failure. The findings point to the possibility of personalized treatment for heart failure patients.

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 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.

  • 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 2018:

  • Getting kids active: In the 2017-18 school year Heart & Stroke Jump Rope for Heart engaged children in more than 3,360 schools across Canada to get active and learn about healthy living, comparable to more than 3,415 schools in the 2016-17 school year, 3,340 schools in the 2015-16  and 3,660 schools in 2014-15.
  • Influencing healthy public policy:
    • As co-chair of the Stop Marketing to Kids Coalition (M2K), Heart & Stroke proudly led advocacy efforts to ensure the successful passing of Bill S-228 to restrict unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children. Having passed in the House of Commons in September 2018, this bill has been debated in the Senate and was awaiting the final vote in early 2019. Heart & Stroke along with the Stop M2K coalition are readying a major public mobilization effort to support the development of regulations once the legislation is passed by the Senate.
    • Health Canada is proposing a front-of-package nutrition symbol to alert Canadians about foods and beverages high in saturated fat, sugar and sodium. A front-of-package label can help Canadians select healthier foods and has the potential to reduce risk for numerous diet-related diseases. Heart & Stroke has been constant and vigilant in its support: we provided feedback on the proposed regulations, encouraged our constituents and partner organizations to also participate in the consultations, and met with MPs and other government officials to highlight the value of front-of-pack nutrition labelling. Heart & Stroke also wrote an op-ed column, informed major investigative articles in the Globe and Mail and Le Devoir, published an open letter signed by six major health agencies in the parliamentary newspaper, and published two full page ads in the Hill Times explaining Heart & Stroke’s position on front-of-pack nutrition labelling.
    • Bill S-5, An Act to Amend the Tobacco Act, became law in spring 2018, authorizing plain and standardized tobacco packages, stripping away the appeal of tobacco products and increasing the effectiveness of health warnings. The federal Health Minister has since supported a regulatory framework that includes a single package type for cigarettes (slide and shell), banning of slim cigarettes and putting health warnings on individual cigarettes. In October, a consultation document was released indicating that Health Canada will likely move forward on this policy. Heart & Stroke was a key influencer on this policy measure – and on tobacco control over the past two decades – aiming to make Canada the first in the world to implement such warnings on products themselves.

3. Saving lives

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

The problem: Too many people in Canada are dying from cardiac arrest (cardiopulmonary arrest) and stroke.

  • Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency causing death if not immediately treated; an estimated 35,000 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 2018:

  • Leading resuscitation education: Heart & Stroke co-authors the Emergency Cardiovascular Care and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Guidelines, which underpin all CPR training in Canada. In 2018 Heart & Stroke instructors trained more than 345,000 healthcare professionals across Canada to prepare them to respond to cardiac emergencies, comparable to the 323,000 trained in 2017, 315,000 in 2016 and 219,000 in 2015.
  • Teaching people in Canada 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 2018 we trained more than 229,000 lay rescuers and others, comparable to the 215,000 trained in 2017, 216,000 in 2016 and 221,000 in 2015.
  • 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. Importantly, 2018 produced updated guidelines that extend the time window for endovascular thrombectomy treatment (EVT) up to 24 hours after stroke symptoms first appear, bringing new hope for people in northern and rural regions who live outside of the previous treatment window of up to 12 hours. In updating the recommendations, Heart & Stroke worked closely with the Canadian Association of Emergency care Physicians (CAEP) to develop the guidelines specific to prehospital and emergency care.
  • Strengthening leadership in the cardiovascular space: In 2018, Heart & Stroke expanded its presence in and relationships with several external groups, notably Arrhythmia Alliance Group (UK), Adult Congenital Heart Alliance, Canadian Cardiovascular Society, CanVECTOR, Canadian Heart Failure Society, Diabetes Canada, Hypertension Canada, International Atherosclerosis Society, Quebec Heart Failure Society, and Valve Voices Canada. This enhanced presence is critical as we explore partnership and alliance opportunities for supporting changes to those impacted by heart disease/conditions.
  • Leader for monitoring of systems performance data and trusted source for health information: Heart & Stroke also closely monitors services and the quality of heart and stroke care in Canada and synthesizes data on the state of our heart conditions, stroke and vascular cognitive impairment. In 2018, we piloted Data Hub, a data tool for people to explore and learn about their conditions in an interactive way from anywhere, anyplace, and any time. The goal is to build capacity among the public and other organizations by enriching their knowledge of our diseases and mobilize them to join forces in our advocacy, policy and systems change efforts.

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 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 2018:

  • Engaging people with lived experience: Through our e-registry network, over 1,300 people who have experienced heart disease, heart failure or stroke, and their caregivers or care partners received practical information and resources to support recovery and wellness. This is an increase of 45% from 2017 and nearly doubled since launch in 2015.
  • Connecting to communities of support: Heart & Stroke’s two online groups, Community of Survivors (1,400 members in total, from 300 in 2017) and Care Supporters’ Community (introduced in 2018 and now 334 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 2018, 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.
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