This reality persists despite astonishing research breakthroughs over the past 60 years — life-saving advances that have improved prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care. 

While we can be proud of this progress, the toll of heart disease and stroke is still too high. It’s counted in lives as well as dollars, as our healthcare system consumes 40 percent or more of provincial and territorial budgets. 

Breakthrough discoveries 

Now the 21st century is escalating newer threats: an aging population, the striking rise in obesity and sedentary lifestyles, and reliance on sugar-packed, processed foods and drinks all endanger the cardiovascular health of Canadians. 

At the same time, our era offers unprecedented opportunity for innovation that will help us change the face of these diseases through technology, research and public policy. 

Digital technology is empowering more Canadians to actively manage their health — and potentially reduce the burden on our healthcare system. For example, the Heart & Stroke Risk Assessment — one of a suite of free online eTools available — has helped more than 850,000 people understand their risk for heart disease and stroke, and find simple ways to reduce it. We’re also excited to be developing virtual peer-to-peer support communities for people living with our diseases. 

“We must have innovative public policies to create environments in which we can regain, and retain, our health."

Scientific discovery is the epitome of innovation, and research has never been more important. Genetics is one area of furious progress, as scientists work to uncover the genes that can pass heart disease risk from one generation to the next. Today, we know only about 20 percent of those genes. Across the country Foundation-funded researchers are sleuthing out the hereditary causes behind such life-threatening conditions as atrial fibrillation, long Q-T syndrome, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) and more, so we can learn how to overcome what our genes have in store for us. 

Innovative public policies

Breakthrough discoveries cannot fight cardiovascular disease alone. Nor can individuals. We must have innovative public policies to create environments in which we can regain, and retain, our health. It’s horrifying that in just 30 years, childhood obesity rates have tripled, with children facing the same risk factors as their parents and grandparents. The Foundation is advocating for public policy changes to address these kinds of issues; policies like restricting marketing of foods and beverages to children, and introducing measures to reduce sugar consumption, in particular sugary drinks.

If we can capitalize on these and other innovations, the future looks bright. I’m confident that — working with partners who share our vision of healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke — we will make it happen, together.