An increasing number of Canadians are living with cardiovascular disease, a recent report has highlighted.
The number of us living with damaged or weakened hearts is now about 600,000 with about 50,000 new cases every year. That's the finding from the latest report from the Heart and Stroke Foundation, which finds ‘hundreds of thousands’ of us are now at risk.
While stroke is only one area of cardiovascular disease (CV being a collective term for diseases of the heart and blood vessels) according to Statistics Canada (2012) stroke is the third leading cause of death in Canada, with six percent of all deaths in Canada due to stroke – that’s over 14,000 Canadians dying each year from stroke.
Stroke occurs when the blood flow to an area of brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost.
While the full extent of the problem might be recent news, scientists worldwide have been working on the problem for years, including our researchers at The Heart Research Institute.
In fact, scientists from our Thrombosis Group have discovered a potential way to improve the world's only stroke drug, a breakthrough which may better protect stroke sufferers from brain injury.
While current medication works by restoring blood flow to blocked arteries, it also promotes inflammation in the brain, triggering further brain injury.
The problem is compounded by the fact the medication must be administrated as fast as possible (ideally within a couple of hours of having a stroke, and no later than 4.5 hours on from the event).
By the time many people get help it is too late. The team believes inflammation may play a role in this narrow success window, which means a new blocking therapy may allow the medication to be given later than before.
Dr. Sean Virani of the Heart and Stroke Foundation states that weakened hearts cost us nearly $3 billion every year and that hospital visits due to weakened or damaged hearts have gone up every year for the past six years – comments that reinforce the important of our research into stroke and cardiovascular disease in general.
The 2016 Report on the Health of Canadians can be read here.