YOUR HEART IS A HOLLOW MUSCULAR ORGAN, ABOUT THE SIZE OF YOUR CLENCHED FIST. IT PUMPS BLOOD AROUND THE BODY, DELIVERING OXYGEN TO EVERY ORGAN AND CELL.
Heart disease is Australia’s leading single cause of death, with 18,590 deaths attributed to heart disease in Australia in 2017, according to the Bureau of Statistics. Heart disease kills one
Australian every 28 minutes. Diseases under the heart disease umbrella include blood vessel diseases, such as coronary artery disease; heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias); and heart defects you’re born with (congenital heart defects), among others.
The term ‘heart disease’ is often used interchangeably with the term ‘cardiovascular disease’. Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood
vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. 90 percent of Australians have at least one risk factor for heart disease. The more risk factors for coronary heart
disease you have, the greater your chance of developing it. The good news is that for most risk factors, you can do something about them. Risks you can control including smoking,
cholesterol, high blood pressure, being inactive, diabetes, being overweight, and an unhealthy diet.
Risks you can’t control include age, gender – men are at higher risk of heart disease, while women’s risk grows and maybe equal to men after menopause; ethnic background and family history.
Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood in the arteries. This pressure enables the heart to pump blood around the body. High blood pressure is often termed the ‘silent killer’ as it usually doesn’t present any symptoms. The only way to know whether you have high blood pressure is to have it measured regularly.
High blood pressure – or hypertension – means that your blood pressure is consistently higher than the recommended level. High blood pressure is not usually something that you can feel or notice, but over time if it is not treated, your heart may become enlarged making your heart pump less effectively. This can lead to heart failure. Having high blood pressure increases your chance of having a heart attack or stroke. It’s very important to get your blood pressure checked regularly, and if it’s persistently high it needs to be controlled.
If you are diagnosed with high blood, your doctor is likely to encourage you to make some lifestyle changes to help reduce it. This may include increasing your physical activity, losing weight,
reducing the salt in your diet, cutting down on alcohol and eating a balanced, healthy diet. Keeping your heart healthy, whatever your age, is the most important thing you can do to help prevent and manage heart disease.
By improving your lifestyle, including your diet and level of fitness, you can minimise your risk of getting cardiovascular disease. Even if you have two or more risk factors, you can still
make changes that will reduce your chances of developing heart problems.
DR BEN ANDERSON
MBBS BMedSci FRACS
John Flynn Hospital
VMO Gold Coast Private, Pindara
and Tweed District Hospitals
Tel: 07 5598 0789