Reports on Canadians' Stroke Health

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Stroke Report 2014: Together against a rising tide

Posted: June 2014

Fewer Canadians are dying from stroke, thanks to advances in prevention, care and treatment. But we face an urgent need to do even better.

Today, more Canadians than ever before are surviving strokes. But a new report by the Heart and Stroke Foundation reveals that the gains we’ve seen in stroke treatment and care will soon be challenged by an aging population and an increase in younger people having strokes. Can our already-stressed healthcare system meet the coming demand?

New data gathered for the report show:

  • Outcomes for stroke patients have improved, and prevention, care and treatment have also improved but the system is about to face more challenges than ever.
  • Younger people are having strokes and this trend is expected to continue.
  • The population is aging and stroke is age-related.
  • Today’s stroke patient is sicker with two-thirds having one or more chronic conditions, making treatment more complex.
  • Not enough patients are getting access to the care and rehabilitation they need to have the best possible outcome.
  • Coordinated systems are the best way to ensure “the right resources, in the right place, at the right time.”

“The data clearly show that Canadians are benefitting from improvements in stroke prevention, care and treatment,” says Ian Joiner, Director, Stroke, Heart and Stroke Foundation. “But this new information also tells us that there are opportunities for improvement at almost every point along the continuum of stroke care, from prevention through to rehabilitation.”

+ Click for larger image

Alex Bohemier had a stroke at birth. Thanks to early diagnosis, he is doing well at almost two years old

Stroke can happen at any age
Although stroke is most common in people over the age of 70, the new data reveal an alarming escalation among those under 70. Over the past decade, strokes in people in their 50s have increased by 24 per cent and, in those in their 60s, by 13 per cent. Even more troubling, recent international studies predict that stroke rates among younger people (ages 24–64), will double in the next 15 years. And as more people get older, there will be more strokes.

Know the signs and take action
Stroke is a medical emergency and every minute counts. Anyone who witnesses or experiences the signs of a stroke should call 9-1-1 immediately so the person can get to a hospital that is equipped to provide emergency stroke care. The sooner someone who is experiencing stroke gets to hospital and receives appropriate treatment, the better their chances of recovery.

Which part of your brain would you let stroke take away? Watch the video.

Coordination is critical
Stroke experts say the key to optimal stroke treatment and care is having “the right resources, in the right place, at the right time.” Dr. Devin Harris, Medical Advisor, Stroke Services BC, and a Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson, says, “Stroke units, consisting of a designated ward with specially-trained physicians, nurses, and therapists, have been unequivocally shown to reduce death and disability post-stroke.” However, the new data show only one-quarter of hospitals providing stroke services have a designated stroke program and only 17 per cent have a stroke unit.

Telestroke, which provides care and treatments to patients by linking healthcare sites through various types of technology, is an efficient way to coordinate services – but it is underutilized. While the technology infrastructure exists in more than 80 per cent of hospitals, only 44 per cent are using it for care related to stroke patients.

Prevention every step of the way
There is hope. Stroke is treatable and preventable. Up to 80 per cent of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented. It is never too late to adopt healthy behaviours that will decrease your risk factors for stroke, even after a stroke has occurred. Take our Heart&Stroke Risk Assessment and get tips on how to maintain healthy changes.


The Stroke Services Inventory carried out by the Foundation reveals that 303 hospitals improved their stroke services between 2009 and 2013*, including:

  • 51 more hospitals are designated as stroke centres
  • 70 more hospitals have identified stroke teams
  • 31 more hospitals have designated stroke units
  • 12 more hospitals provide the clot-busting drug tPA
  • 48 more hospitals have telestroke capacity.

* 612 hospitals responded to the 2013 survey of which 303 had also participated in the 2009 survey, thus allowing for comparisons of only those hospitals which had participated in both surveys.

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