Getting to the Heart of Stroke: New global research finds in spite of increased risk, more than half of Canadians with atrial fibrillation do not fear having a serious and potentially fatal stroke(1),(2)

Canadians can now take action: Online voting now open to decide funding for innovative Canadian programs aimed at preventing AF-related strokes

TORONTO, April 18 /CNW/ - New research reveals more than half of Canadians (56 per cent) living with atrial fibrillation (AF) do not fear having a stroke, despite AF-related strokes being more severe, debilitating and twice as likely to be fatal.1,2 Results released from the SPEAK about AF Survey (Stroke Prevention Education, Awareness and Knowledge), a global survey of people diagnosed with AF and of physicians, showed approximately one-third of Canadian patients aren't making the connection between AF and stroke.1

In fact when it comes to stroke, patients in Mexico (74 per cent), Germany (65 per cent) and Greece (60 per cent) are most fearful.1

"It's clear we have a serious issue when it comes to AF and stroke in this country. Too many people do not understand having AF means they are at increased risk of a stroke and how serious the effects can be," says Dr. Paul Dorian, Director, Division of Cardiology, University of Toronto and Staff Electrophysiologist, St. Michael's Hospital. "This big gap in understanding could help explain the low rates of stroke prevention - only one-quarter of AF patients are on treatment and properly managed, putting three-quarters at serious risk."

People with AF, an irregular heart rhythm, are at least five times more at risk of stroke than those without the condition.2 After the age of 55, the incidence of AF doubles with each decade of life and after the age of 60, one-third of all strokes are caused by AF.2 The disabilities from an AF-related stroke can be significant, such as paralysis, loss of speech, effects on memory and thought processes.3

1 Mission 1 Million - Getting to the Heart of Stroke
To help prevent as many as one million-AF related strokes and close the gap in patients' understanding of AF and its link to stroke, today Canada launches the global 1 Mission 1 Million - Getting to the Heart of Stroke disease awareness program sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim.

The global initiative will provide up to €1 million (approx. $1.4 million CAD) worldwide for innovative projects designed to prevent AF-related strokes within regional communities, whether through research, screening programs or the creation of patient groups and websites.  Funding for the most innovative projects will be determined by the global community through online voting at

Jane Seymour, world-renowned actress, is the program's Global ambassador because of her personal connection with stroke due to AF.

"I'm involved in 1 Mission 1 Million - Getting to the Heart of Stroke for very personal reasons; my mother had AF and in fact she had a stroke," said Jane Seymour.  "Anyone who's been a caregiver for someone who's had a stroke, will know how debilitating and horrendous strokes can be.  There is an urgent need for people to learn more about AF and how it relates to stroke. Through 1 Mission 1 Million, the public can actively help to prevent one million AF-related strokes by doing something as simple as voting online."

A total of 16 Canadian project proposals have been selected for voting, including:

  • Stroke Recovery Association of BC (Promoting Worldwide AF-Related Stroke Prevention)
  • Networks Activity Centre (Getting on with Life After Stroke)
  • Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba (What's that Crazy Beat? - The Truth About Atrial Fibrillation)
  • Gateway Rural Health Research Institute (Skip a Beat? - Do you have atrial fibrillation?)
  • Peterborough Regional Vascular Health Network (VROC)
  • Queen's University, Heart Rhythm Service, Kingston General Hospital (Optimal Imaging before pulmonary vein isolation for Atrial Fibrillation - OPTIMA Trial)
  • Queen's University (Creating an Internet Tool to Empower Patients to Choose Their Best Stroke Prevention Strategy)
  • Stroke Survivors Association of Ottawa (Putting the Possibility into Stroke Disability: Peer Support for Stroke Survivors and Care-partners)
  • Ottawa Cardiovascular Center (Atrial Fibrillation Decision Aide and
  • University of Ottawa Heart Institute (Automatic Post Marketing Drug Surveillance: Warfarin in Atrial Fibrillation Patients)
  • West Island Cardiac Wellness Program - Affiliated with Lakeshore General Hospital (West Island Cardiac Education and Support Program)
  • Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia Heartland Tour)
  • QEII Health Sciences Centre (Atrial Fibrillation - The CRAFT-EE Care Approach)
  • Heart and Stroke Foundation of  Nova Scotia (AF Patient Walkabout & Nova Scotia Atrial Fibrillation Summit - A Focus on Management)
  • Heart and Stroke Foundation of New Brunswick (The Driving Wellness Van)

Voting is now open to the public until June 22, 2011.

In addition to voting, also features useful information about the risk factors for AF-related stroke and offers support and advice for people who have been diagnosed with the condition.

Other Key Findings from the SPEAK about AF Survey

Other key survey findings include1:

  • The overwhelming majority of Canadian physicians (95 per cent) say that AF has a negative impact on patients' lives, while 63 per cent of Canadian AF patients agree.
  • Canadian AF patients want to learn more about the following aspects of AF the most: treatment options for AF and their risks/benefits (54 per cent), risks of stroke associated with AF (47 per cent), and treatment options for stroke prevention and their risks/benefits (40 per cent).
  • While both Canadian physicians and AF patients agree they discuss AF and related treatment options, they don't agree on how frequent those discussions are.
    • Physicians say they sometimes discuss what AF is (3.2 on a frequency scale of 4), while patients say they have that conversation rarely (2.5).
    • Physicians also say they sometimes (3.2) talk about treatment options for AF and the related risks/benefits, but patients do not feel this occurs as often as their physicians believe (2.7).
    • Both physicians (2.9) and patients (2.7) agree they sometimes discuss the risk of stroke associated with AF.
  • The majority of physicians believe it would be much easier to talk to their patients about the seriousness of AF if there was increased public awareness about the condition (52 per cent) and its link to stroke (60 per cent).

About the Global SPEAK about AF Survey1
SPEAK about AF (Stroke Prevention Education, Awareness and Knowledge) is a global survey of people living with AF and of physicians, and was sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim.  It involved over 3,700 patients diagnosed with AF, as well as cardiologists, neurologists and general practitioners. The survey spans across four continents and 12 countries, including Canada. Excluding the United States and Mexico, the survey was conducted by GfK Research Matters between the July 1st and November 19th, 2010.  For more information, visit

About 1 Mission 1 Million - Getting to the Heart of Stroke
1 Mission 1 Million - Getting to the Heart of Stroke is a first-of-its-kind disease awareness initiative sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim.  Project applications, submitted by healthcare professionals and organizations worldwide, have been reviewed by an Expert Panel whose members are leaders in the field of AF, and voting is now open to the public.  Voting will close on June 22, 2011 and the projects with the most votes will be awarded funding.  The Expert Panel members also will select seven 'Expert Picks' - projects that are deemed to be deserving of special recognition.  There are a total of 32 awards available, ranging from €10,000 to €100,000, totaling €1 million (approx. $1.4 million CAD).

The campaign has the support of over 40 third-party organizations around the world, including the World Heart Federation, the only global body dedicated to leading the fight against heart disease and stroke.

About Atrial Fibrillation (AF) and Stroke in Canada
Atrial fibrillation, also known as an irregular heartbeat, affects up to 250,000 Canadians.2  In Canada, stroke is the leading cause of adult disability and the third leading cause of death, with up to 15 per cent of strokes being caused by AF.2,4

The total health care costs for Canadian 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.5 People with non-disabling strokes spend up to $24,000 during the first six months and the costs for families can increase to over $200,000 for the most severely affected. Examples of stroke-related expenses to families include those associated with caregiving, transportation, and lost income.5,6

About Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd.
The Boehringer Ingelheim group is one of the world's 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, it operates globally with 145 affiliates and more than 42,000 employees.

Since it was founded in 1885, the family-owned company has been committed to researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing novel products of high therapeutic value for human and veterinary medicine.

As a central element of its culture, Boehringer Ingelheim pledges to act socially responsible. Involvement in social projects, caring for employees and their families, and providing equal opportunities for all employees form the foundation of the global operations. Mutual cooperation and respect, as well as environmental protection and sustainability are intrinsic factors in all of Boehringer Ingelheim's endeavors.

In 2010, Boehringer Ingelheim posted net sales of 11.7 billion euro while spending almost 24% of net sales in its largest business segment Prescription Medicines on research and development.

The Canadian headquarters of Boehringer Ingelheim was established in 1972 and the Research and Development Centre located in Laval, Québec, Canada since 1988. Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd. is home to more than 700 employees including 160 scientists across the country.

For more information please visit

1 GfK Research Matters survey of 3,729 AF patients and physicians in four continents and 12 countries, including Canada. Excluding the United States and Mexico, the survey was conducted by GfK Research Matters between the July 1st and November 19th, 2010 and had the following margin of error: patients diagnosed with AF (+/-3.05%), general practitioners (+/-3.29%), cardiologists (+/-3.75%), neurologists (+/-15.62%), and internal medicine specialists (+/-13.85%).
2 Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. (Accessed March 15, 2011)
3Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. (Accessed March 15, 2011)
4 Canadian Stroke Network. (Accessed March 15, 2011)
5 Heart and Stroke Foundation. (Accessed March 15, 2011).
6 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.

SOURCE Boehringer Ingelheim

For further information:

Sara McClelland     
Boehringer Ingelheim Canada Ltd.    
(905) 631-4713 
          Jeanelle Frampton
Environics Communications
(416) 969-2670 (office)


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