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Past participants of Toronto Rehab's Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program are reaping the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, and want to help others do the same.
Thanks to the 12-week program that focuses on heart health, they're now informed and motivated to make lasting changes to their diet, exercise and habits.
Their desire to give back provides the catalyst for the Toronto Rehab Foundation's annual "On Track to Cardiac Recovery" fundraising walk, which celebrated its 15th year this past Saturday.
More than $85,000 was raised by 225 participants who walked the Rumsey Cardiac Centre indoor track in support of the program that helps people have been diagnosed with heart disease, or are at risk, improve their cardiac health and fitness.
Family-friendly activities, a Longo's Heart Healthy Lunch, live music and educational programming rounded out the roster of fundraising, fitness and fun.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in Canada. Toronto Rehab's research shows that people who participate in cardiac rehab programs following a major heart episode can reduce the risk of dying in the following five years by up to 50 percent.
Over the past 50 years, the Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program at the University Health Network has grown and evolved to become the largest of its kind in North America, delivering a number of outpatient rehabilitation and lifestyle education programs for patients with a history of heart failure, diabetes, stroke and breast cancer.
Cardiac Rehab graduates spearheaded "On Track to Cardiac Recovery" to raise awareness of the program during Heart Month and to help fund vital advancements and innovations.
"I initiated this walk back in 2004 and it remains very close to my heart," says past participant Jim Chestnutt, 79. "I suffered a massive heart attack back in 1989 and Toronto Rehab's Cardiac Rehab Program saved my life.
"As Chair of the annual 'On Track to Cardiac Recovery' event and as a grateful patient of the program, I am so proud that this event has raised [so much money] in support of Toronto Rehab."
Proceeds from the event have provided crucial support to launch important initiatives such as Cardiac College that provides a worldwide online audience with the tools they need to manage cardiac disease while living longer and better.
Established by Toronto Rehab in 2014 and now a division of its
Health e-University, Cardiac College aims to help people treat heart disease, get active, eat healthy, feel well, and take control of their health. To improve accessibility, the curriculum is delivered through a website, patient guide, and an online school (learning management system).
"The 'On Track to Cardiac Recovery' walk plays a vital role in engaging an extended community in our program that helps people live longer and better lives," says Dr. Paul Oh, Medical Director of the Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation Program at Toronto Rehab and Peter Munk Cardiac Centre.
"We are grateful for the generous support from the event that enables us to build on our program's success and translate important findings into powerful health tools such as Health e-University."
The proceeds from this year's event will support improvements to Health e-University's Cardiac College as well as essential upgrades at Toronto Rehab's Rumsey Cardiac Centre.