It’s the symbol of love but also the symbol of life. We all need to take care of our hearts to lead long, healthy and happy lives. Here’s how you can find out if you’re as healthy as you should be, and mitigate your own risk of heart disease.
More than 55,000 Australians had a heart attack last year, with one occurring every ten minutes in Australia. Sadly, almost 10,000 people died, half of these before reaching hospital.
Better awareness of the warning signs is critical for everyone. They very from person to person, and despite what you may see on TV, they’re not always sudden and severe. According to the Heart Foundation of Australia:
“Symptoms may include pain, pressure, heaviness or tightness in one or more parts of the upper body including chest, neck, jaw, arm(s), shoulder(s) or back in combination with other symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness or a cold sweat.”
Their advice: call Triple Zero (000) immediately.
Reduce your risk
Prevention is always better than cure, so consider the key risk factors and what you can do to mitigate them. They including smoking, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, being physically inactive, being overweight, and depression.
While many of these can be improved through more exercise and a healthier diet, some have genetic roots and re- quire medical management.
What to test
From as early as your twenties and thirties – even if you think you’re in good health – it’s wise to get the following checks:
• Blood pressure – every couple of years
• Cholesterol and glucose levels – every couple of years
• Dental check (poor oral health is linked with heart disease) – at least every couple of years
From your forties, you should add:
• Chronic disease check – once
• Type 2 diabetes risk – every three years
Remember that a bad result isn’t disaster, it’s merely a warning sign. Most problems can be fixed with changes to your diet, exercise, and medication where appropriate. And thanks to modern medical science, even serious issues can usually be treated, allowing people to live many more decades.
If you’re initially unsure about visiting your GP, you can always contact the Heart Foundation. They’re happy to offer more information and advice, and it’s a free service.
Being prepared – learn CPR
CPR combines mouth-to-mouth breathing and chest compressions to keep blood and oxygen circulating to the heart and brain of someone whose heart has stopped beating. It is literally a lifesaver.
Note that CPR doesn’t suddenly restart the person’s heart (unlike some movies misleadingly represent). It keeps things going until paramedics arrive with a defibrillator. Keep doing it until help arrives – there are people whose lives have still been saved after over an hour of CPR.
The best thing to do is go on a proper first aid course, but there is detailed information online, as well as many videos.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia, responsible for 15% of all deaths in 2011. So show yourself – and your family – some extra love and get a heart health check.
Chloe Quin is a qualified yoga instructor and wellness expert with www.health.com.au. Chloe is passionate about empowering women to boost their health and fitness in fun, family-friendly ways.