Community Spotlight: Heart & Stroke Foundation

At Saskatchewan Blue Cross, we’re driven by a mission to empower communities on their journey to whole health and wellness. We’re also working to improve access to, understanding of, and use of health information across the province so Saskatchewan residents can make informed decision about their health. To help us on that journey, we’ve created lasting partnerships with organizations whose mandates align with those goals – one of which is the Heart & Stroke Foundation. We’re proud to support their vital work in reducing the impact of heart-related illness on individuals, communities, the healthcare system, and beyond.

On February 1, to kick off Heart Month, the Heart & Stroke Foundation released a new report about heart failure, a chronic condition in which the heart does not functioning properly or has a structural concern. It happens when the heart is too weak or too stiff, or both. According to the Heart & Stoke Foundation’s website, heart failure is “one of the fastest moving cardiovascular conditions in the world,” and affects more than 750,000 Canadians today.

Research shows that prevention is key when it comes to heart failure. This week, we’re sharing what you can do to prevent heart disease and failure, as well as symptoms to keep an eye out for.

Prevention of heart failure

According to Heart & Stroke, prevention starts with knowing your risks, including that 9/10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke. “Almost 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through healthy behaviours. That means habits like eating healthy, being active and living smoke-free have a bit impact on your health.”¹

So what can you do to prevent heart failure? First, learn your risk factors here, including lifestyle risks, health conditions you may have, and other risk factors you can’t control. Understand that women have unique risk factors, and learn more about them here. And finally, work to develop habits that will reduce your risk and help to prevent heart disease.

Habits that can help you prevent heart disease include:

Symptoms to watch out for

With the increased incidence of heart failure in Canada, it’s important to know the symptoms² to keep an eye out for. These include:

  • Increased shortness of breath, especially when lying flat – it’s not normal to be short of breath, regardless of age
  • Unexpected weight gain
  • Bloating or feeling full all the time
  • Cough or cold symptoms that last for longer than a week
  • Tiredness, loss of energy or extreme fatigue
  • Loss or change in appetite
  • Swelling of the ankles, feet, legs, lower back or abdomen
  • Increased urination at night

It can happen to anyone

Although heart failure is often linked to other significant cardiovascular conditions, it can be diagnosed in almost anyone. Paul Gee, a Saskatchewan resident, was diagnosed with heart failure in 2017. He was fit, active and generally ate well. He went to the ER for shortness of breath and difficulty breathing and expected to be sent home with antibiotics for a respiratory illness. Instead, he spent a few days in hospital and learned he had congestive heart failure.

The cause of Mr. Gee’s condition is unknown and there’s no history of heart failure in his family. He takes medication to manage the disease, eats a heart-healthy diet, and attends a rehab clinic. Despite his progress, with no cure for heart failure, he Paul can’t help but dwell on the significantly shortened average life expectancy of someone with his condition.

Mr. Gee is one of 750,000 Canadians who overcome the struggle of living with heart failure every day. He’s one of the many reasons Saskatchewan Blue Cross supports the Heart & Stroke Foundation on their quest to increase awareness of heart failure and to reduce its impacts on Canadians.

Heart & Stroke Foundation’s 2022 Spotlight on Heart Failure

The Heart & Stroke Foundation’s new report, which is titled Falling short: How Canada is failing people with heart failure and how we can change that, “reveals that despite progress, navigating through siloed systems remains difficult and significant gaps still exist in diagnosis, treatment and support”. It also includes an action plan that will help alleviate some of those concerns and improve the outcomes for people living with heart failure. To learn more about heart failure and the steps you can take to reduce your risk, and read the complete report, please visit the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s website.

For more information about Saskatchewan Blue Cross’ work to improve health literacy in Saskatchewan, visit the Community page on our website.


¹Heart & Stroke Foundation – Risk and Prevention

²Heart & Stroke Foundation – 2022 Spotlight on Heart Failure