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How Well Are You Looking After Your Heart?

February 2017 is Heart Research Month organised by Heart Research Australia to raise awareness of the impact of heart disease and to generate support for research into its prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

There are several types of heart disease according to the Department of Health, but the term is commonly used to refer to a condition in which the coronary arteries become narrowed. This usually occurs due to blockages from fatty substances such as plaque, which can result in a reduced blood flow to the heart muscle.

Heart disease statistics

Statistics cited by the Heart Foundation reveal that CHD (coronary heart disease) accounted for 12% of all deaths in 2015 (around 20,000 people) and that it kills one person in Australia every 12 minutes.

It is also generally higher in males as it is the cause of death for one in seven males and one in eight females in 2014.

Tracking your BMI

Your body mass index or BMI is a common tool now used to indicate if you’re at risk. It can be calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared. Here’s the breakdown:

The following table shows examples of BMI measurements for a person of 1.8 metres in height:

Prevention is better than cure

Fortunately, many of the risks associated with heart disease can be reduced through lifestyle changes. These include quitting smoking, reducing alcohol, losing weight, reducing salt intake, a healthy diet (with plenty of vegetables and fruit and lean protein), treating depression and stress, controlling diabetes, and participating in regular exercise.

Advances in prevention, diagnosis and treatment

Advances are being made all the time in terms of prevention, diagnosis and treatments. This includes having a better understanding of how lifestyle modifications and other treatments such as cholesterol medication can work together towards the prevention of heart disease, as well as identifying specific biomarkers that indicate heart muscle damage.

Look out for symptoms and signs of attack

Symptoms of heart disease can include chest pain, breathlessness, and / or pain in other areas such as the shoulders, arms and neck. Warning signs of a heart attack include a feeling of fullness in the chest, pain in the shoulders and arms, fainting, sweating, shortness of breath, palpitations, irregular heartbeats and paleness. According to the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, warning signs are typically more obvious in men than in women.

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Australian Government Department of Health, ‘Cardiovascular Disease’, viewed 20 February 2017

Heart Foundation, ‘Heart Disease in Australia’, viewed 22 February 2017

Better Health Channel, ‘Heart Disease Risk Factors’, viewed 20 February 2017

Heart Foundation, ‘Waist Measurement’, viewed 20 February 2017

World Health Oganization, ‘BMI Classification’, viewed 22 February 2017

Heart Foundation, ‘Body Mass Index (BMI)’, viewed 22 February 2017