More Canadians than ever before are surviving heart disease and stroke. Today if you make it to a hospital after suffering a heart attack, you have a 95 percent chance of survival, compared with only 65-70 percent in the 1950s and 1960s.

Over that period, we’ve seen an even more dramatic increase in the survival rate of infants born with complex heart defects, today more than 90 percent reach adulthood, compared to less than 20 percent before.

"Heart disease and stroke are still leading killers, taking more than 66,000 lives every year in Canada."

These successes are directly related to research advances, many of them funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. We’ve learned to treat and manage risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol; forward-looking health policies have helped reduce smoking rates from about 50 percent in the 1950s to 16 percent today; we have developed and continue to refine life-saving medications such as beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, statins and anticoagulants; increasingly sophisticated imaging equipment and surgical interventions have revolutionized diagnosis and treatment.

New challenges loom

Despite this remarkable progress, new challenges threaten our advances and now more than ever we need research and new solutions. Heart disease and stroke are still leading killers, taking more than 66,000 lives every year in Canada.

Diabetes rates in heart attack patients have skyrocketed to 31 percent from 17 percent in a matter of decades; 60 percent of adult Canadians are overweight or obese, and obesity rates in children have tripled over the last 30 years.

Nine out of ten Canadians have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. All this is set against a background of an aging population with a higher chance of developing CVD.

Research holds the key

So how do we outrun this tide? Exciting work is taking place on many fronts. Scientists are finding new ways to repair damaged hearts using stem cells, and other therapies to stop cells from dying or to regenerate new cells. Research is underway to identify which genes predispose a person to cardiovascular disease, this information could help stop the disease before onset or halt its progress.

Teams are working to determine how changes to neighbourhood design can promote physical activity and healthier lifestyles. With more Canadians surviving and living with the effects of CVD, research is key to support them to make the best recoveries possible and improve their quality of life.

Canadians should celebrate the progress that has been achieved through the dedication and perseverance of our researchers. Let’s keep up this excellent work.