Stroke Survivors Association of Ottawa urging 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
TORONTO, 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 effects on
the memory, thought and emotional processes.3 Currently, AF costs the Ontario health care system approximately $700
"Ontarians are right to be frightened by the effects of a stroke - but
what concerns me more is the wide-spread 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
Bruce Ryder knows all too well how easy it can be to live with AF and
not even know it. He was diagnosed with AF four years ago after
passing out at a party.
"Prior to my AF diagnosis, I had never heard of atrial fibrillation,
much less knew about its connection to stroke," says Ryder. "Thinking
about what could have happened had I not discovered my AF and started
treatment is positively frightening to me. I was just living with AF
and didn't even realize it - I had no symptoms. That is why you need to
raise this with your physician and get them to check your heart
rhythm. Not everyone will be as lucky as me."
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
"Ontarians are fearful of stroke, yet many admit they're unfamiliar with
its link to AF - a condition that can lead to one of the most severe
and debilitating types of stroke," says Dr. Richard Tytus, Associate
Clinical Professor of Family Medicine, McMaster University. "Our goal
is to educate Ontarians about AF and the consequences of an AF-related
stroke, so that they take action by speaking with their doctor. Once
people understand their risk, they can then work with their doctor to
take the necessary steps to protect themselves."
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 of 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
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
"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:
Stroke Survivors Association of Ottawa
613-237-0650 (Stroke Line)
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.