Heart Week, at the start of May, is a good reminder to get a heart check. As the recent deaths of Shane Warne and Kimberley Kitching have shown, heart attacks aren’t limited to older men who are unfit and stressed.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death for people around the world. In Australia, they account for one in four deaths and 1,619 hospitalisations each day. While heart disease is sometimes thought of as a men’s health issue, heart disease is also the leading killer of women. In fact, twice as many Australian women die of heart disease than breast cancer.
Unfortunately, many do not realise that they have cardiovascular disease before they experience heart attack or stroke. Over half of Australian adults have three or more modifiable risk factors for CVDs. An excellent first step to assess your risk profile is the Australian Heart Foundation’s heart health check toolkit.
You’re best placed to survive a heart attack if you recognise the symptoms and get medical help as soon as possible. We all think we know what a heart attack looks like: a man clutching a hand to his chest. Indeed, for most men, the first signs of a heart attack is pain in the heart and radiating down the left arm.
For women, however, the symptoms are different – and less likely to be recognised. They are:
- unusual fatigue lasting for several days, or sudden severe fatigue
- sleep disturbances
- indigestion or gas-like pain
- throat discomfort or jaw pain
- light headedness
- pressing on the chest
These symptoms lend themselves to sitting down, and perhaps making a cup of tea. But it’s sitting down to have a nice cup of tea – rather than calling for medical help – that kills women.
Regardless of gender, these five lifestyle changes can greatly improve your heart heath:
- quit smoking
- get your blood pressure checked regularly
- limit stress, or find ways to manage your stress
- eat healthy foods more regularly than not
If you’re looking for an exercise option that has been specifically designed for older adults and can cater to all your aches, pains or health issues, then check out Living Longer Living Stronger. We have sessions across Victoria, and even online.