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February is Heart Month!

Community-based programs can improve quality of life

According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, heart disease is the second leading cause of death and hospitalization in Canada and affects over 2.4 million Canadians. The good news is, up to 80 per cent of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices such as eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels. However, health isn’t just limited to physical wellbeing. It’s also about the holistic development of people on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. It’s about the connections between each person, family and community. As a longtime leader in healthy living and disease prevention, we are pleased to team up with community partners to offer programs that support preventative healthcare and embrace healthier lifestyles:

Heathy Hearts Program – In partnership with the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH), the YMCA Healthy Hearts program is a community-based cardiac prevention, rehabilitation and maintenance program that focuses on low-risk patients who do not need to participate in a hospital-based program and for patients who have been transitioned from RVH’s rehabilitation program. The program offers a customized plan to help individuals regain their strength, prevent their condition from worsening and reduce the risk of future heart problems. Education workshops and social events also make the program informative, social and fun! Since its inception four years ago, over 340 people have completed the YMCA Healthy Hearts program and the response has been very positive.

“Before the Healthy Hearts program, after I’d walk my dog, I would come home and have to sit down on the couch. This program made a huge difference in my strength and overall energy level. My wife could also see the progress I was making throughout the program. She was so pleased to have the YMCA’s support.”

~Spencer Potter, YMCA Healthy Hearts participant

Heart & Stroke Activate – Heart & Stoke has teamed up with the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka to offer a free, six-month wellness program called “Activate.” This program gives participants the tools needed to improve their diet, exercise more, and manage stress – with the end goal of reducing their blood pressure. For more information about the Activate program, please visit

Multiple studies have shown that people who participate in cardiac rehabilitation programs live longer, have fewer heart attacks, and need repeat hospitalization less frequently.

The YMCA’s vision is to inspire people to reach their full potential. Together, with the help of our partners, we will continue to offer community-based programs, like the Healthy Hearts program, that have a greater impact on addressing preventative healthcare, social connectedness and ultimately, provide a better quality of life.

Prevention is key!

Take the Heart and Stroke Risk Assessment to find out if you’re at risk of heart disease and stroke and how you can take action to live a longer and fuller life. If you’re concern about the health of your heart, make sure to book an appointment with your healthcare provider and visit your local YMCA to see what programs are available to help support you on journey to better health!

For more information about the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka programs and services, please visit

Rob Armstrong is President and CEO of the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka; focused on investing in communities, ensuring all people have access to the Y and implementing programs that are helping thousands of youth and families to learn and thrive. Prior to joining the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka in 2011, Rob held senior leadership positions at the YMCA of Edmonton, YMCA of Owen Sound, YMCA of Cambridge and most recently YMCA Ontario. Rob holds an Honours degree in Physical and Health Education from Queen’s University and has since augmented his education with advanced courses from the Harvard Business School of Entrepreneurship, Ivy School of Business and Queen’s University Executive Education Program.

Since coming to Simcoe/Muskoka, Rob has taken an active leadership role in the Child, Youth and Family Services Coalition of Simcoe County and Barrie’s Pathways to end homelessness. He served on a number of boards including local Community Foundations, Affordable Housing, Parks and Recreation Ontario and the Minister of Health Promotions Health Advisory Committee.

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