Heart disease is our nation’s single biggest killer, claiming one Australian life every 28 minutes.

This week is national Heart Week, and The Heart Foundation is encouraging all Australians over the age of 35 to see their GP for a Medicare-funded heart health check to help prevent early onset heart disease or stroke.

Sadly, awareness is still lacking among the Australian community that women are nearly three times more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer, and many women are not aware they are at risk.

Your heart health risk is determined based on a number of factors that contribute to risk of heart disease, stroke and other heart conditions. These include:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Family history
  • Lifestyle habits including diet, exercise and sleeping patterns
  • Mental health status

According to the Heart Foundation, up to 90 per cent of Australian women have at least one risk factor for heart disease, and as many as 50 per cent have two or more.

Heart Health Week serves as an important reminder that for many, heart disease and stroke are preventable. Some small, but significant lifestyle changes that can help to improve heart health and protect against heart disease include:

  • Eating a variety of foods mainly from the core food groups recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines including fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, beans and legumes
  • Regularly fitting in at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day you enjoy, such as running, dancing, lifting weights or anything to get your heart pumping
  • Not smoking
  • Finding simple ways to manage your everyday stress and mental health such as walking away from your desk during your lunch break at work, or engaging in regular creative or social-based hobby

A heart health check is quick and easy, so speak to your healthcare professional about your risk and how you can improve your heart health. For more information visit The Heart Foundation.