Clinical Care Resources - Heart Disease & Stroke

Cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) is a leading cause of death for Canadian men and women.  The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk. When certain risk factors occur together, known as metabolic syndrome, the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes becomes greater.

Why is it important?

  • Older individuals are at greater risk; most strokes occur in people over 65.
  • Men over the age of 55 and postmenopausal women are at greater risk of heart disease.
  • Until women reach menopause they have a lower risk of stroke than men.
  • Risk of heart disease is increased if close family members – parents, siblings or children – developed heart disease before age 55 or, in the case of female relatives, before menopause.
  • Risk of stroke is increased if close family members – parents, siblings or children – had a stroke before age 65.
  • First Nations people and those of African or South Asian descent are more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes, and therefore are at greater risk of heart disease and stroke than the general population.
  • Persons who had a previous stroke or a TIA, which is also known as a mini-stroke, your risk of stroke increases.
  • Manageable risk factors: high blood pressure (hypertension) ; high blood cholesterol ; diabetes; being overweight; excessive alcohol consumption ; physical inactivity ; smoking; stress  

Heart attack warning signs

  • Warning signs can vary from person to person and they may not always be sudden or severe.  Some people will not experience chest pain at all, while others will experience only mild chest pain or discomfort. Others may experience one symptom, while some experience a combination.
  • Chest discomfort (uncomfortable chest pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, burning or heaviness)
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body (neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, back)
  • Shortness of breath • Sweating • Nausea • Light-headedness 

Why is it important?

  • Stroke can be treated. It is important to recognize and respond to the warning signs.
  • Weakness is a sudden loss of strength or sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg
  • Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding or confusion even if temporary
  • Sudden trouble with vision
  • Sudden severe and unusual headache
  • Sudden loss of balance, especially with any of the above signs
  • Dizziness

Ischemic stroke:  About 80% of strokes are ischemic caused by the interruption of blood flow to the brain due to a blood clot. The buildup of plaque (fatty materials, calcium and scar tissue) contributes to most ischemic strokes by narrowing the arteries that supply blood to the brain, interfering with or blocking the flow of blood. This narrowing is called atherosclerosis. An ischemic stroke is either "thrombotic" or "embolic."

Thrombotic strokes are caused by a blood clot that forms in an artery directly leading to the brain. Embolic strokes occur when a clot develops somewhere else in the body and travels through the blood stream to the brain.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) also known as a "mini-stroke" is caused by a temporary interruption of blood flow to the brain. The symptoms (warning signs) are similar to an ischemic stroke except they go away within a few minutes or hours. Many people can have a TIA without even knowing it. A TIA is an important warning sign that puts you at increased risk of a full-blown stroke.


1. Heart & Stroke Foundation. Heart Disease. Retrieved from:

2. Heart & Stroke Foundation. Stroke. Retrieved from: