Tillsonburg's ready for Heart Month

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Heart and Stroke Foundation volunteers have had their rally and are ready to roll in the month of February, also known as Heart Month.

The information 'rallies' were held in four locations for about 1,267 volunteers in Brant (Brantford), Haldimand (Hagersville), Norfolk (Simcoe) and Tillsonburg to help distribute kits for the Heart and Stroke Foundation's door-to-door canvassing program, with tips on how to canvass, as well as giving volunteers a look at the overall big picture.

Tillsonburg had a good turnout – about 70 people attended last week's rally at St. Paul's Church.

"More than last year," said Pam Brown, area manager for the Heart and Stroke Foundation – Brant, Haldimand, Norfolk, and Tillsonburg district.

Volunteers will begin canvassing 'person-to-person' starting February 1.

"Sometimes people question people coming to the door," Brown noted. "They will have a Heart and Stroke volunteer badge to identify them as a canvasser as well as a red-and-white kit in their hand. They can canvass any time they choose during the month of February, whenever it works for them."

The goal for this Heart and Stroke region is $140,100. Money raised will go to research, education, and advocacy.

"The door-to-door campaign is one of the largest and most successful grassroots fundraisers for the Heart and Stroke Foundation," said Brown, noting volunteers across the country help collect donations of $10 million each year.

"It's a lot of feet on the streets, that's for sure."

In 2012, Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation's overall fundraising revenues reached an all-time high and the amount invested in research and programs increased nearly $6 million.

Some of the funds raised in this area will be used to purchase skipping ropes for the Jump Rope for Heart program, said Brown, as well as AEDs (Automatic External Defibrillators) placements. In the region, 175 AEDs have been placed so far.

"We offer Heart Healthy presentations to every school, whether they participate in 'Jump' or not."

Since the Heart and Stroke Foundation was established in 1952, more than $1.35 billion has been invested in heart and stroke research, making Heart and Stroke Foundation the largest contributor in Canada after the federal government. In that time, the death rate from heart disease and stroke has declined by more than 75 per cent.

"Last year we injected $3.8 million into foundation-supported research in Central West Ontario alone," Brown noted.

Information gained from any of their research units – they have 600 researchers – is made available to all doctors and hospitals.

"It enhances all of our lives – the research information is distributed and everyone gets to learn and benefit from that."

In the last decade alone, Heart and Stroke Foundation Canada has invested more than $1 billion in its mission activities, which include health education, community-based programs and research. Foundation programs such as Health Check and The Heart Truth help Canadians live healthy and longer lives, as do online tools such as the Heart and Stroke Risk Assessment. A strong presence in communities across the country helps them reach Canadians of all ages through initiatives such as the Living with Stroke program and Healthy Living programs delivered to school children.

"The bottom line," said Brown, "is to educate everyone – including the kids, so they will have a healthy lifestyle – so if they do face the (heart and stroke) issues, we all have knowledge to deal with it, to bring them home and live the best life they can."

Today, there are 1.6 million Canadians living with the effects of heart disease and stroke. The Heart and Stroke Foundation, nationally, has helped create 165,000 survivors this past year alone.

Risk factors associated with heart and stroke disease include smoking, obesity, poor diet and inactivity. In the region, the foundation says 21.75 per cent of the residents smoke, while 53 per cent are overweight or obese. Some 56.7 per cent of residents don't eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables each day and 47.8 per cent are inactive during leisure time. As well, 3,137 residents are hospitalized each year because of stroke/heart attack.

chris.abbott@sunmedia.ca

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