Fear Factor: New Survey Reveals that One Quarter of Ontarians Say Surviving a Stroke Would Be Worse Than Dying(1)

Stroke Survivors Association of Ottawa urges Ontarians to learn about a serious heart condition called atrial fibrillation - and how to prevent it causing the most severe and debilitating type of stroke2,3

OTTAWA, Jan. 23, 2012 /CNW/ - According to a new Stroke Survivors of Ottawa Survey, conducted by Léger Marketing, a quarter of Ontarians say surviving a stroke would be worse than dying and more than a third (34 per cent), would rather lose a limb than suffer the effects of a stroke1.  However, while Ontarians are fearful of the consequences of a stroke, the majority are unfamiliar with the basic facts of atrial fibrillation or AF - a common and serious heart condition that can lead to the most severe and debilitating types of stroke.2  What's more, 71 per cent of Ontarians falsely believe that AF is tied to an increased risk of heart attack while only 40 per cent understand its connection to stroke.1

There are approximately 100,000 Ontarians living with AF, which causes the heart to beat irregularly.  After the age of 55, the incidence of AF doubles with each decade of life.2  People with AF are three to five times more at risk of having a stroke than those without AF, and they are twice as likely to die from one.2 For those who survive a stroke, the disabilities can be significant and can include paralysis; loss of speech and understanding; and affects on the memory, thought and emotional processes.3  Currently, AF costs the Ontario health care system approximately $700 million annually.4

"Ontarians are right to be frightened by the effects of a stroke - but what concerns me more is the widespread lack of awareness about conditions like AF, and thereby the lack of action people are taking to protect themselves from the strokes it can cause," says Janet McTaggart, Executive Director of the Stroke Survivors Association of Ottawa.

Hannah Sibeth knows only too well about the impact an AF-related stroke can have and how easy it can be to live with AF and not even know it.  She herself has AF and is caring for her husband who suffered a stroke 16 months ago.

"It is devastating to watch a person you love struggle with the effects of a stroke.  Watching him being trapped inside, knowing exactly what he wants to say and not being able to speak spontaneously is heartbreaking. Something which we take for granted requires all his energy just to try to communicate," says Sibeth. "I have AF but I'm on an anticoagulant. Paul, who had mild blood pressure issues, was not. I can't even imagine what would happen to Paul if I wasn't here to care for him."

The survey also revealed that more than 70 per cent of Ontarians do not know how to prevent an AF-related stroke.1  To help bridge that knowledge gap and raise awareness of AF, a new website has been developed:  www.StrokeAndAF.ca. Visitors can not only learn the facts about AF, but they can also find questions to ask their doctor, tips on living with AF, and suggestions for caregivers.

"It's clear that Ontarians are fearful of the effects of a stroke. But being concerned is one thing - taking action is what will make a difference," says Dr. Michael Sharma, Medical Director, Regional Stroke Program, Ottawa Hospital.  "If people better understood the consequences of an AF-related stroke, they wouldn't hesitate to raise the topic with their doctors.  That is what I hope this education campaign drives people to do, because once diagnosed, we can significantly reduce a person's risk of having a severe stroke."

A White Paper entitled Reconnecting the Pieces to Optimize Care in Atrial Fibrillation was recently published by the Centre for Innovation and Complex Care at the University Health Network.  It provides a comprehensive review of the gaps in AF care in Ontario, the challenges for patients, and the costs to the health care system.

"Atrial fibrillation and stroke are putting enormous financial pressures on our health care system that we cannot afford," says Dr. Dante Morra, Medical Director, Centre for Innovation and Complex Care at the University Health Network. "Our population is aging at an alarming rate, but with a combination of some system restructuring and better disease prevention, we can get it under control and provide great care to Ontarians."

According to the survey, Ontarians have an appreciation for the impact a severe stroke could potentially have on their lives.  In fact seven in 10 Ontarians fear losing their independence due to stroke and more than six in 10 fear losing their mobility (66 per cent), not fully recovering from a stroke (65 per cent), losing their speech/ability to communicate (64 per cent) and being a burden on their family (63 per cent).1

"If we get more people to take action and protect themselves from stroke, hopefully we can reduce the number of stroke survivors that need our assistance. Raising awareness about AF is an important first step," says McTaggart.

About Stroke in Canada
In Canada, stroke is the leading cause of adult disability and the third leading cause of death5 with up to 15 per cent of strokes being caused by AF.2 The health care costs for patients in the first six months after a stroke totals more than $2.5 billion a year, with direct and indirect costs for each patient averaging $50,000 in the first six months following a stroke.6  People with non-disabling strokes spend up to $24,000 during the first six months and the costs for families can increase to over $100,000 for the most severely affected.7 Examples of stroke-related expenses to families include caregiving, transportation and lost income.

About Stroke Survivors Association of Ottawa
Stroke Survivors Association of Ottawa (SSAO) provides stroke survivors, their families, caregivers, professionals and the general public with a wide variety of support services, community re-engagement, advocacy, education and other programs. As well, SSAO has connections to many Ottawa and surrounding area stroke supports.


SOURCE Stroke Survivors Association of Ottawa

For further information:

Jeanelle Frampton
Environics Communications
416-969-2670
jframpton@environicspr.com

Janet McTaggart
Executive Director
Stroke Survivors Association of Ottawa
613-237-0650 (Stroke Line)
strokesurvivorsofottawa@gmail.com 

References:
_______________________________________

1Leger Marketing online survey of 1,000 Ontarians 18+ years of age.  The survey was conducted from October 24 - 26, 2011. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/-3.0%, 19 times out of 20.
2 Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada 2009 Stroke Report Card.
3 Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3484157/k.8AD7/Stroke__Effects_of_a_stroke.htm (Accessed Jan. 12, 2012)
4 Centre for Innovation in Complex Care, University Health Network. Reconnecting the Pieces to Optimize Care in Atrial Fibrillation. April, 2011.
5 Canadian Stroke Network.  http://www.canadianstrokenetwork.ca/index.php/about/about-stroke/stroke-101/ (Accessed July 5, 2010)
6 Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=ikIQLcMWJtE&b=6074245&ct=8425975 (Accessed October 19, 2010)
7 Mittmann N, Seung SJ, Sharma M, and the BURST study investigators.  Impact of disability status on ischaemic stroke costs.  Presented at the 2010 International Stroke Congress, Feb 25 2010, San Antonio, TX. Poster P538; Stroke; 41;4:e390.

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