Two out of every three Australian families will be touched by heart disease. Find out how you can help lower your risk.

One Australian suffers a heart attack every 9 minutes, and on average, one will die every 27 minutes. In a bid to improve heart health and raise awareness around the issue, Heart Research Australia is encouraging all of us to join the ‘Red Army’ during REDFEB 2016. This is the signature fundraising and awareness campaign run by Heart Research Australia each February to support vital research.

Heart disease affects women four times more than breast cancer

Risk factors

Signs of heart disease are not always obvious, and a heart attack can often be the first indicator. While there is no single cause for heart disease, there are a number of risk factors that can increase your chance of developing the disease. These can be broken down into two categories: modifiable risk factors and non-modifiable risk factors.

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Common symptoms that may indicate heart disease

Modifiable risk factors
These include lifestyle habits like smoking, and health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances are of developing heart disease.

“In the case of overweight and obese individuals, conservative estimates indicate that life expectancy at age 20 years is about one year less among overweight Australian adults than those within the healthy weight range,” Michelle adds. “And life expectancy is reduced by about 4 years for obese adults.”

Heart disease is Australia's number one killer

“If current trends continue, it has been estimated that the life expectancy for children alive now will fall by two years by the time they are 20 years old. The statistics also reveal glaring gaps in how we prevent and manage cardiovascular disease.”

4 healthy heart habits
The good news is you can improve, and in some cases eradicate, modifiable risk factors:

  1. Have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly
  2. Engage in exercise at least three times per week
  3. Maintain a balanced diet
  4. Continue to not smoke or quit smoking

Non-modifiable risk factors
Unfortunately, non-modifiable risk factors such as age, gender and a family history of heart disease cannot be changed.

According to 2014 Australian Heart Disease statistics, cardiovascular disease (CVD) accounts of thirty per cent of all deaths annually. While this is a large number, it is worth noting that during the 1960s, CVD was responsible for an astounding 56 per cent of all deaths.

However, Michelle adds, “Cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death in Australia, and is the most expensive disease treated nationally, accounting for eleven per cent of direct healthcare expenditure.”

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The REDREB message says: ‘We need you to join the red army and help us beat Australia’s No 1 killer – heart disease’. Interested? Get active, adopt a healthy habit today and wear red, or fundraise during the month of February.

There are many ways to get involved. Here are just a few examples:

  • Get active for REDFEB by creating your own Everyday Hero page and choosing an exercise activity to help you raise funds.
  • Hold a walk, run, bike ride or host a sports game within your club, company or department.
  • Have fun while raising awareness and funding a worthy cause! “REDFEB is not only for individuals who want to make a difference, but also a great opportunity for the corporate sector to get involved and encourage staff to make their heart health a priority in a fun way!” Michelle says.
  • Fundraise for REDFEB by hosting a ‘ heart healthy’ morning tea, or set a team/staff challenge to take the stairs rather than the elevator, or give up smoking during February.
  • Wear red for REDFEB and help turn Australia RED on National Wear Red Day on 26 February 2016.

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Have you or a loved one been affected by heart disease? Join the conversation below.