Susan Robertson was 36 when the simple act of getting up to cross a room sent three blood clots rushing to her brain, causing what she describes as "essentially three strokes at once."
The Windsor woman, now 42, spent a year working to regain the use of the right side of her body and said it was "scary" that people in the Windsor-Essex region have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke than residents in other regions in the province.
"People think it can only happen to the elderly, but it can happen to anyone at any age," said Robertson. "Strokes do not discriminate."
A new study from the Canadian Medical Journal found residents in the Windsor-Essex region experience "major cardiovascular events" at a rate nearly double the level seen around Toronto over a five-year study period.
"I was healthy. I had no apparent risk factors that I knew of, other than apparently the region that I live," said Robertson. "To hear that our area is at a greater risk, it's scary to me."
Numbers not a surprise
Holly Kirk McLean, area manager for the Windsor Heart and Stroke Foundation, said the region's high rates aren't a surprise.
"Unfortunately, this seems to be the same statistics we've heard before for this area," she explained.
Locally, the organization's focus has been on fundraising for research, but McLean said in the past year they've made a "big push" to educate the community.
Healthy lifestyle delays heart disease
Risk factors include smoking, drinking and stress, she added.
McLean, who said her both of her grandfathers and one grandmother all suffered strokes, said family history does play a role in who gets hit by heart disease, but added simple lifestyle changes can help people stay healthy.
"Eighty per cent of risk factors are things we can change," McLean explained. "If you act properly you can delay the onset of heart disease and stoke by 14 years, That's a huge difference."
Robertson said living in Windsor isn't a choice she regrets making, but she does hope more research could shed light on why this area is so hard on the heart.
"I think that they should be looking further into the causes and why it is the way it is."