When did you last get your car serviced? Is it something you do every year without fail?
“why is it we religiously get our cars serviced yet don’t take the time to get ourselves checked up?”
These are the wise words of a Heart Research Australia ambassador who lost her husband to heart disease whilst she was pregnant with her second child. Gemma Moriarty works closely with Heart Research Australia to help raise awareness about heart disease and to encourage all Australians to get a heart health check, something that may have saved her husband’s life. Too many Australians put general check-ups on hold throughout COVID lockdowns and it’s time to get these booked in again.
Heart health is something all men AND women need to be aware of. With heart disease being Australia’s single leading cause of death*, it is important for ALL Australian’s to be aware of their risk factors and share their family history with their GP.
1.4 million Australians have a high chance of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years and unfortunately many are unaware of this risk.
Having regular and timely contact with primary health care providers, such as GPs and cardiologists, can contribute to better outcomes for those with coronary heart disease by highlighting any risk factors early and taking positive steps to reduce these, particularly as many of the risk factors are silent such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Your first step should be booking in for a heart health check with your local GP. The cost of this is now covered by Medicare so is free for all Australians. The GP will check your blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol and discuss your lifestyle and family history to assess your risk of having a heart attack.
It’s important to note this isn’t something that just needs to be done once as these risk factors can change over time so should be done yearly or on a regular basis suggested by your GP.
Every man and woman should have annual heart health checks from the age of 45 or 30 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, however if you have any concerns or family history it is important to address these with your GP at any age as heart disease can still affect younger people.
In conjunction with getting a heart health check, Heart Research Australia recommends all Australian’s follow the 4Ms. These are simple steps that are easily maintained that can help keep you on top of your heart health.
These are MEALS, MEASUREMENT, MOVEMENT, MENTAL APPROACH:
MEALS – Eat intelligently.
Knowing what you are eating is the first step to being able to eat a well-balanced diet. Know your recommended portions for each food group, know how much salt, fat and sugar are in your foods to be able to make informed choices.
MEASUREMENT – Know your numbers.
Keep track of your health measurements such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure, weight, sugar levels, waist circumference and exercise capacity. Regular monitoring of these numbers enables you to see any changes as soon as they occur as well as positive changes if you are making a conscious effort to improve them.
A close relationship with your GP will optimise the way good health is measured and monitored.
MOVE – Keep moving at any age and any level of fitness.
Exercise has many benefits beyond simple fitness and flexibility. It stimulates the body’s immune system, reduces blood thickening so it clots less easily, improves brain function, and lowers blood pressure.
MENTAL APPROACH – Stay optimistic
This can be easier said than done in this current environment and challenges that have been thrown our way over the last few years however, many studies show your state of mind can protect, as well as damage heart health.
Important risk factors that may lead to heart disease include stress, loneliness, anger, and depression which can be as damaging as high cholesterol levels in causing heart disease. Unaccustomed stress such as the loss of a family member can trigger heart attacks in an otherwise well individual.
Conversely, a positive state of mind, a supportive community and personal happiness may help reduce the risk of a bad cardiovascular event.
Following the 4Ms and having regular heart health checks with your GP are great ways to stay on top of your heart health.
For more information about Heart Health and to join a like minded supportive community, sign up to our Heart Health Club here.
*Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020. Coronary heart disease. Canberra: AIHW