February is heart month for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and volunteers will be canvassing across Canada during their heart month campaign.
For those who have experienced a heart attack, they are not likely to ever forget the pain associated with it or perhaps the fear they felt upon waking up in the Intensive Care Unit, intubated and hooked up to monitors.
For those who have suffered a stroke, they may remember the weeks of rehabilitation and are conscious daily of the disabilities they may have been left with.
For those who may have been on hand to call 9-1-1 when someone they loved was having a heart attack or stroke, they will forever remember the adrenaline rush, how time seemed to stand still and how the moments it took for the ambulance to arrive seemed more like hours.
The threat of being affected by these diseases is real and it is estimated that every seven minutes someone in Canada dies from heart attack or stroke and nine out of 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor.
Those risk factors include high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, the lack of physical exercise and the use of tobacco.
The threat is amplified because of our aging population and sedentary lifestyles.
For close to 65 years the Heart and Stroke Foundation has been dedicated to fighting these two diseases. Since 1952 they have invested more than $1.4 billion in vital research, being the largest contributor in Canada, next to the Federal Government.
This lifesaving research has led to breakthroughs in heart surgeries and in stroke treatment and rehabilitation.
Over the past six decades, the deaths from heart disease and stroke have declined by more than 75 per cent.
It is because of the countless number of Canadians who have supported this organization, through their volunteer efforts and monetary donations, that real progress has been made.
Last year 19 canvassers from Summerland took part in the campaign and Diane Pew was one of them and this will be her 18th year going door to door.
“Most people have been very supportive when I come canvassing,” said Pew. “I’ve been doing it for so long, in the same area most people know who I am. I am always happy when they donate, because I think it is a good cause and it’s my way of giving back as well.”
The Heart and Stroke Foundation has not only invested in research, but also in education. They have helped Canadians of all ages learn how to make healthier life choices and were the first Canadian organization to call for a daily limit on sugars added to food and drink. They have called for regulations on eliminating trans- fats and reducing salt in processed food and for improved labelling of these products.
Along with other groups, they have also advocated for restrictions on the commercial marketing of food and beverages to children and for the plain packaging of all tobacco products.
Each year the Foundation works with partners to train Canadians in basic CPR and first aid.
To enable faster and better cardiac emergency and stroke response treatments, the organization co-authored and released updated guidelines for Emergency Cardiovascular Care and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.
Through their Federal AED Program, they placed more than 3,200 automated external defibrillators in arenas and rinks across the country.
By now most people are familiar with the acronym FAST, because of the public awareness campaign that taught us to think of Face: is it drooping? Arms: can you raise both? Speech: is it slurred or jumbled? Time: to call 9-1-1 right away.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation has some ambitious goals for the future.
By 2020, they hope to reduce the Canadian death rate from these heart disease and stroke a further 25 per cent.
Last year just under $10,000 was raised in our community and the organizers are hoping to increase that to $11,000 this year.
To volunteer, donate or learn more, go to www.heartandstroke.ca.