Special Report: The Heart of the Matter

BY JOEL SCHLESINGER
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, Summer 2010

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of illness in Canada, affecting an estimated 1.3 million people. In Manitoba, more than 50,000 people visited the Winnipeg Health Region's Cardiac Sciences Program at St. Boniface Hospital for heart-related issues last year.

Although there are numerous types of heart disease, most conditions generally arise from the same basic cause: a restriction in the flow of blood to the heart due to a narrowing of the arteries because of infection or a build-up of plaque in the artery walls. Heart conditions are often attributed to lifestyle choices, including poor diet and a lack of activity. But they can also be caused by hereditary factors, or even a virus.

Some heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure, develop slowly over time as plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, restricting the flow of blood and leaving the patient fatigued. Other conditions, such as heart attack, can occur suddenly and dramatically when a piece of plaque in an artery breaks off, causing a blockage.

Although the rate of cardiac illness has been declining in recent years, heart disease still accounts for more than 60,000 deaths a year. It also costs more than $10 billion annually in physician services, hospital costs, lost wages and decreased productivity, according to some estimates. Moreover, some experts say heart disease rates could be on the rise again soon as the population ages and more people develop diabetes and other chronic conditions associated with cardiac illness.

In this special report, we explore the nature of heart disease and shows how individuals can take steps to keep their heart healthy. We also talk to three Manitobans who are battling the effects of heart disease, and explain how changes in diagnosis and treatment have helped give them a new lease on life.

Time is muscle Time is muscle
Heart attack survival rates are on the rise, but cardiac specialists say they could be even higher if more people understood the importance of quickly recognizing the warning signs and immediately calling an ambulance.

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Staying alive Staying alive
Thanks to new technology and innovative approaches to care, congestive heart failure patients like Elaine Madison are getting a new lease on life.

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Surgical precision Surgical precision
Heart patients receive leading-edge treatment before, during and after surgery, providing them with a second chance for a more heart-healthy life.

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About the Cardiac Sciences Program About the Cardiac Sciences Program
The Winnipeg Health Region's Cardiac Sciences Program integrates cardiac surgery, cardiology, cardiac anesthesia, cardiac intensive care and cardiac rehabilitation resources under one umbrella.

Full story
Further reading Further reading

About the heart

How the heart works

The heart by the numbers

Heart attack warning signs

Types of heart conditions

Mending a broken heart

How to keep your heart healthy

Wave

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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