To the editor,
Over the past 60 years, thanks to the work of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and our partners, the death rate from heart disease and stroke in Canada has declined by more than 75 per cent, 40 per cent of this decrease occurring in the last decade alone. While this is cause for celebration, much work remains to be done to support survivors with rehabilitation, as currently there are 1.6 million people living with the effects of heart disease and stroke in Canada. One of them is two-time Olympic figure skating medalist Isabelle Brasseur.
Isabelle has vasodepressor syncope, a congenital heart condition that has caused her heart to stop as a result of extreme physical exertion or stress—a serious issue for an Olympic athlete. To manage her condition, Isabelle takes beta-blockers to slow her heart down and allow her to lead a normal life. She will need to take this medication for the rest of her life. In addition to her own condition, Isabelle’s family has been deeply affected by heart disease and stroke. She lost her father to heart disease, her mother has suffered two strokes, and recently her father-in-law passed away from a heart attack.
When Isabelle became pregnant in 2000, she worried about whether her heart would be strong enough to bear the stress of labour. She had reason to worry. When doctors discovered her baby was in breech position, they scheduled a C-section. During the procedure Isabelle went into cardiac arrest. Her doctors reacted quickly by administering a surge of adrenaline to start her heart, and both she and her daughter survived.
Advances made possible by Heart and Stroke Foundation research have allowed Isabelle to manage her condition and become one of the growing number of heart disease survivors. Today she is a spokesperson for the Foundation.
“I know first-hand the importance of maintaining heart healthy behaviours,” said Isabelle. “Because of my heart condition I have had to make adjustments to control my health as best I could. I’ve lost my father and my father-in-law, and my mother has suffered strokes, so I understand the pain that is associated with heart disease and stroke. My best advice is to identify early on everything you can do to reduce your risk and follow the advice of groups like the Heart and Stroke Foundation, who are working hard to keep Canadians healthy.”
In 2013, the Foundation helped create 165,000 survivors, like Isabelle. And to date, the Heart and Stroke Foundation has invested more than $1.39 billion in heart and stroke research.
This February is Heart Month. When a Heart and Stroke Foundation canvasser arrives at your door, please give generously. Your support allows us to help Canadians reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke, save lives by enabling faster and better emergency medical response and treatment, and enhance support for survivors, families and caregivers.
Here in Nova Scotia, there are over 3,000 canvassers going door-to-door across the province with the goal of raising over $450,000 dollars towards achieving our mission. Show your support for healthy lives, free of heart disease and stroke at heartandstroke.ca or when a canvasser comes to your door.
Healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke. Together, we can make it happen.
Nova Scotia Heart and Stroke Foundation CEO, Menna MacIsaac