COURTNEY MOANE AND STAFF WRITERS
This Sunday is World Heart Day, and heart health organisations in Australia and around the world are keen to get people to take action to reduce the risks cardiovascular disease, which is the most common cause of death worldwide.
Australian heart health charity, the Heart Foundation, is also urging people to take action against heart disease this World Heart Day, asking them to be their own “heart hero”.
“Like all great heroes, you can reach into yourself to discover your true destiny, which is to defeat heart disease!” the Heart Foundation said.
“Flex those heart hero muscles, show off your spandex suit and use these superpowers to stride into the future as the heart health hero you are destined to be.”
According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 17.9 million people die from cardiovascular diseases each year, making up an estimated 31 per cent of deaths worldwide.
And Australia is no different, with heart disease being the single biggest killer of Australians.
According to the Heart Foundation, heart disease takes 51 lives in Australia each day, and one-fifth of Australians aged 45 to 74 are at high risk of heart attack or stroke, with heart disease killing one Australian every 28 minutes.
The foundation are urging people to combat heart disease on World Heart Day by making a promises, to cook and eat more heart-healthy foods, to exercise more and to help your children be more active, and to say “no” to smoking and to help others to quit.
They also recommend people who are 45 years of age or older, or 30 years or older for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, to visit their GP to have a heart health check.
Heart Foundation group CEO Professor John Kelly said the lack of awareness surrounding heart health was concerning and called on Australians to take steps towards looking after their hearts.
Professor Kelly said one in two heart disease deaths were due to high blood pressure, so it was critical to properly manage these risk factors.
“Having high blood pressure that is not managed can cause damage to the arteries and blood vessels over time and [can] lead to a heart attack of stroke,” he said.
Professor Kelly said if people lived a health lifestyle and took appropriate medications the number of blood pressure related deaths would decrease.
Heart Foundation national CEO Dr Lyn Roberts said reaching the recommended 30 minutes of walking every day could make a huge difference to heart health.
“Most adults know the importance of being active, but busy lifestyles, safety concerns and lack of motivation make it easy to put off being active,” Dr Roberts said.
“By simply reaching the recommended 30 minutes of walking a day, a person’s risk of a cardiovascular disease can be reduced by as much as half,” she said.
“Most adults know the importance of being active, but busy lifestyles, safety concerns and lack of motivation make it easy to put off being active.”
World Heart Federation CEO Johanna Ralston agreed.
“We want to get people around the world walking, to reduce their risk of developing a cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and strokes,” Ms Ralston said.
World Heart Day also raises awareness about good heart health for people who may have already suffered cardiovascular disease or heart attacks, such as Barry Pearce.
Mr Pearce was 49 when he suffered from a heart attack in 1993.
He said he didn’t remember a lot from the day he went into cardiac arrest, but he did remember waking up in the hospital and not realising what had happened to him.
“You never really expect to be one of the 54,000 to suffer from a heart attack, you always think ‘oh, that’ll never happen to me’,” Mr Pearce recalled.
“But it did – from what I’ve been told I sort of collapsed and [my son in-law] Jeff got me straight to the car and took me to the hospital, “ he said.
“I’m pretty sure I was in and out of consciousness after that.”
Mr Pearce’s youngest daughter, Kylie Moane, said she still remembered the day her dad suffered from a heart attack.
“I remember getting a call from [my husband] Jeff saying he was taking dad to the hospital,” Ms Moane said.
“Obviously I freaked out and asked why, and I could hear dad in the background saying it was a heart attack,” she said.
“I dropped everything I had been doing at work and called [my] mum and [my sister] Donna to get in the car and get to the hospital as soon as possible.”
Ms Moane said for a few months before Mr Pearce had a heart attack, he didn’t look as healthy as usual.
Mr Pearce who had suffered from Type Two Diabetes for most of his life, but apart from that he had seemed to be an average, healthy 49-year-old man.
But looking back at her wedding pictures, Ms Moane said he wasn’t well at all.
“He just looked so sick,” she said.
Before his heart attack, Mr Pearce and his family knew virtually nothing about good heart health.
“After dad’s heart attack I was terrified it would happen again or [that] it could happen to anyone around me,” Ms Moane said.
“Cardiovascular conditions can be hereditary, and I myself suffer from high blood pressure, so it’s important that I always try and stay the healthiest I can be, and I’ve made sure to raise my kids that way, too,” she said.
“You’ve got to keep your weight down, make sure your cholesterol is low, and you have to make sure you look after yourself and always exercise, because if dad suffered a heart attack, there’s every chance myself or Donna could.”
“It was one of the most terrifying days of my life, I thank my lucky stars everyday my dad is still here with me… it is so important that people take heart health seriously,” Ms Moane said.
“Around 180 people die everyday from a heart attack in Australia alone, so I’m incredibly lucky I’m one of the ones who got a second chance at life.” Mr Pearce said.
“I’m very lucky to still be here.”
Professor Kelly is encouraging all Australians to head to the Heart Foundation website and complete the Heart Age Calculator, which compares your heart age to your actual age, to help people understand the risk of heart attacks or strokes.
To learn more about heart disease and living a heart-healthy lifestyle, visit heartfoundation.org.au.