A Canadian Olympic figure skater who showed strength and poise in the face of tragedy has joined forces with the University of Ottawa Heart Institute to fight heart disease in women.

Just days after her mother, Therese, died suddenly from a massive heart attack, figure skater Joannie Rochette won a bronze medal, and along the way, captured the world’s attention and affection with her courage.

Months later, Rochette is working with the heart institute to help change the course of heart disease in women.


Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women aged 55 and older, with women of all ages representing 50 per cent of heart disease deaths in Canada, the institute said recently.

While heart disease risk in women increases with age and the onset of menopause, heart attacks are still not uncommon in women in their 30s.

There are important differences in the awareness, prevention, understanding and treatment of heart disease in women compared to men.

While Rochette’s mother succumbed to a mix of genetic and lifestyle risk factors — a circumstance that is far more common in women than is generally recognized — women do not always exhibit the classic signs of a heart attack, increasing the odds of having a heart problem misdiagnosed.

Women’s heart attack symptoms can include unusual fatigue, trouble sleeping, indigestion and anxiety up to one month before a heart attack.

Rochette will help to raise funds for research projects related to women’s heart health, re-shape women’s attitudes and understanding of heart disease and increase prevention measures.

“Like everyone else, we were completely captivated by Joannie’s character and poise in coping with the loss of her mother under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable,” said Dr. Robert Roberts, President and CEO, UOHI.

“By providing her voice and support to this cause, we in the medical community hope to make major inroads in reducing the impact of heart disease in women for years to come.”

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