STROKE IS URGENT: The Heart and Stroke Foundation 2011 Stroke Report warns stroke awareness is dangerously low among women

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 General News
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Foundation launches free Smartphone apps to help turn the tide for all Canadians

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June 1, 2011 /PRNewswire/ - The Heart and Stroke Foundation 2011 Stroke Month Report warns that awareness levels of stroke warning signs and stroke prevention is dangerously low among all women, especially among women from Canada's two largest visible
minorities - people of Chinese and South Asian descent.

The Foundation polling found that women are not aware that stroke and heart disease is their leading cause of death:

  • For Canadian women overall, 53 per cent are unable to identify that stroke and heart disease are their leading cause of death - and responsible for one in three deaths.1
  • For women of Chinese and South Asian origin, 84 per cent are unable to identify that stroke and heart disease are their leading cause of death.2

Awareness has improved steadily thanks to the Foundation's The Heart Truth campaign, which continues to inform and empower women to take action to reduce their risks. Before the campaign started three years ago, 68 per cent of women didn't know stroke and heart disease was their leading cause of death.3 "Heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of death in women," says Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson, Dr. Frank Silver. "The real tragedy is that 80 per cent of strokes are preventable, whether you're a man or a woman."

Stroke affects women and men of all ages. More than 50,000 strokes occur in Canada every year - one every 10 minutes. About 300,000 Canadians live with the effects of stroke. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, more women than men die from stroke annually. In Canada stroke kills 32 per cent more women than men. A previous analysis of Canadian deaths shows that stroke death rates are highest among women of Chinese origin, intermediate among women of South Asian origin, and lowest among women of European origin.

Women need better stroke detectors Women's awareness of stroke warning signs is poor. The Foundation poll found that only 53 per cent of South Asian women were able to correctly identify at least two of the five warning signs - lower than the overall Canadian average for women of 62 per cent.

When asked to identify at least three warning signs, only a third of all women polled could do so. "Canadian women need to be better stroke detectors," says Dr. Silver. "We need to do all we can to build awareness of the warning signs and help women reduce their risk from death or disability from stroke."

HSF poll: women's awareness of the stroke symptoms/warning signs

Stroke warning sign Chinese women *March 2011 South Asian women *March 2011 All Canadian women **December 2009 
Sudden loss of strength/numbness in face/arm/leg, even if temporary 48 37 50
Sudden difficulty speaking/understanding/confusion, even if temporary 30 24 42
Sudden loss of balance, especially with other signs 27 27 35
Sudden trouble with vision, even if temporary 18 16 28
Sudden severe/unusual headache 15 9 20
Don't know/No answer 18 22 15

*Environics (March, 2011) ** Environics (December, 2009)

"Stroke is urgent. Knowing and reacting immediately to stroke warning signs is essential," says Dr. Silver, who notes that there is a treatment for strokes caused by blood clots, the most common type of stroke. This treatment must be administered within the first few hours of warning signs to be effective. "Canadians must react urgently to the warning signs by calling 9-1-1 or their local emergency number," says Dr. Silver. 

Women underestimate their risk factors when it comes to stroke Equally concerning, 23 per cent of all women could not name even one risk factor for stroke. Only 29 per cent of Chinese women and 22 per cent of South Asian women identified high blood pressure, which is in fact the leading risk factor for stroke.

Women overall also had low awareness of stroke risk factors. For example, only 28 per cent recognized high blood pressure as a risk factor and only 20 per cent identified high cholesterol.

Following a lower-sodium diet and controlling high blood pressure, being physically active and smoke-free can significantly reduce stroke risk. "The very face of our communities is changing. Heart disease and stroke are increasingly crossing age, gender, and ethnic lines," says Dr. Silver.  "It's important that Canadians of all ethnic backgrounds be aware of how to prevent stroke."

HSF poll: women's awareness of the stroke risk factors 

Stroke risk factor Chinese women *March 2011 South Asian women *March 2011 All Canadian women **December 2009 
High blood pressure (hypertension) 29 22 28
Smoking 9 9 23
High cholesterol levels 24 19 20
Obesity 12 12 15
Stress 11 25 11
Family history 16 5 11
Physical inactivity 22 15 9
Age 7 1 6
Heart disease 4 5 5
Diabetes 7 8 4
Excessive alcohol consumption 4 6 4
Don't know/No answer 16 20 23

*Environics (March, 2011)

** Environics (December, 2009)

There was even lower awareness of the other risk factors of stroke (gender, ethnicity, and personal history of stroke or TIA).

Foundation launches two stroke apps to help Canadians lower their risk

To help all Canadians lower their risk for stroke, the Heart and Stroke Foundation created two new free Smartphone apps that will allow them to make simple lifestyle changes - wherever they are.

"The digital age has created a new avenue for healthcare - and the Foundation is embracing the technology to support the health of Canadians," says Dr. Marco Di Buono, spokesperson for the Foundation. "With a continued focus on reducing all risks, we can stop strokes from robbing us of valuable, quality years of life."

The My Heart&Stroke Health Check Recipe Helper Smartphone app

By eating a diet that is lower in sodium, Canadians can prevent and control high blood pressure, the number one cause of stroke. The new My Heart&Stroke Health Check Recipe Helper app provides Canadians with a quick and easy resource to help lower the amount of sodium (salt) in their diets. The app features dozens of heart-healthy, lower-sodium recipes that come with grocery lists, main ingredient searches, and comprehensive nutrition information. Health Check™ is one way the Foundation helps Canadians make healthy choices and is based on Canada's Food Guide.

A 2007 Heart and Stroke Foundation and Canadian Stroke Network study showed that reducing salt intake by half would eliminate high blood pressure in one million Canadians.

"Our Health Check registered dietitians selected these recipes based on strict criteria for the amount of sodium and fat content," says Dr. Di Buono. "Canadians can trust that the recipes are healthy." The recipes include a variety of options for salad, soup, vegetarian, meat, poultry, and seafood meals.

With the app, Canadians can create a grocery shopping list and rate their favourite recipes. It will be regularly updated with new recipes and features.

The My Heart&Stroke Blood Pressure Action Plan app

"High blood pressure - which is the leading cause of stroke - affects six million Canadians, and is known as the silent killer because of its lack of symptoms," says Dr. Silver. "The good news is that with proper diagnosis and treatment of high blood pressure, you can cut your risk of stroke by up to 40 per cent."

Developed by Foundation experts, the My Heart&Stroke Blood Pressure Action Plan app allows users to monitor and better manage their blood pressure. They will be able to assess their personal risk, track blood pressure readings over time, view graphs of blood pressure changes, share readings with their physicians, list their medications, set appointment reminders, and track their condition.

"The bottom line is that awareness of your risks, of the warning signs, and of prevention and treatment options are your best defences against stroke," says Dr. Di Buono.

The free apps - which are available in English or French - can be downloaded at the Apple, Android, and BlackBerry app stores. Or Canadians can go to

Heart and Stroke Foundation helps Canadians turn the tide on stroke

The Heart and Stroke Foundation is a committed leader in stroke research, health promotion, and advocacy. The Foundation works on many fronts to help all Canadians live longer, healthier lives:

  • The Heart Truth The Foundation's The Heart Truth™ campaign educates women about identifying their risks and warning signs of heart disease and stroke. It provides women with the tools they need to take charge of their heart health: women can significantly reduce their risk — by as much as 80 per cent — by making simple lifestyle changes. (
  • A Canadian vision for stroke care The Canadian Stroke Strategy is a joint initiative of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Stroke Network designed to support an integrated approach to stroke awareness, prevention, access to treatment, rehabilitation, and community reintegration in every province and territory. The Canadian Stroke Network fosters collaboration between more than 100 of Canada's leading scientists and clinicians from 24 universities. This strategy is already saving countless lives, while also having remarkable influence on secondary stroke prevention and recovery.
  • Multicultural HSF resources Chinese is now the number three language in Canada - right after English and French. The new HSF poll found that over 80 per cent of Chinese and South Asian women were interested in stroke and heart disease information geared to them. Eighty-one per cent of Chinese women and 78 per cent of South Asian women said it would be useful to have this information their languages. The Heart and Stroke Foundation has health resources in Cantonese, Mandarin, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, and Urdu to meet this need. Go to for more information.
  • A quivering heartbeat away from stroke This year, the Foundation put the focus on a risk factor for stroke: atrial fibrillation. This condition causes an irregular heartbeat and increases the risk for ischemic stroke - stroke caused by a blood clot - by three to five times. It is estimated that up to 15 per cent of all strokes are due to atrial fibrillation.
  • Focusing on stroke research The research initiative Focus on Stroke encourages new researchers and health professionals to train in the field of stroke and supports newly established investigators. Celebrated as one of the country's leading research partnerships, the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Stroke Network received the first ever CIHR Partnership Award for this initiative in 2002.
  • Stroke knowledge saves lives Recognizing stroke warning signs and getting immediate medical attention have a major impact on survival and recovery. The Foundation recently launched its Stroke is Urgent awareness campaign to help Canadians recognize warning signs and how to react to this medical emergency.

1. This poll was conducted by Harris/Decima via teleVox, the company's national telephone omnibus. A total of 1,013 Canadian women were surveyed from March 31st to April 10th, 2011. Results are accurate to within +/- 3.1% 19 times out of 20.

2. This poll was conducted by Environics Research Group. This telephone poll was conducted between March 16-31, 2011. A total of 255 South Asian and 245 Chinese women were surveyed. The findings can be considered accurate to within plus or minus 6.3%, 19 times out of 20.

3. This poll was conducted by Harris/Decima via teleVox, the company's national telephone omnibus. A total of 1,023 Canadian women were surveyed from December 6th to 17th, 2007. Results are accurate to within +/- 3.1% 19 times out of 20.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation, a volunteer-based health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke and reducing their impact through the advancement of research and its application, the promotion of healthy living, and advocacy. (

/NOTE TO EDITORS: Media Assets accompanying this story are available as follows:

















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