Heart Health Blogs
Can You Turn The Clock Back On Your Heart Health
Heart disease impacts more than one million Australians every year.1 Many of the risk factors for heart disease can be influenced by behaviours starting as youths and these increase the risks as we age. Having a proactive approach to your heart health by regular checkups with your general practitioner is a crucial part of maintaining good heart health.
How do we get poor heart health?
Heart disease is an umbrella term that describes a group of conditions that affect heart health, including coronary heart disease and heart attacks, heart failure, electrical abnormalities such as atrial fibrillation and more. Read more about heart health here.
Choices we make in our youth can put us at an accumulated and increased risk of poor heart health as we get older. This means that behaviours we changed years ago could still impact us today.
You shouldn’t wait until you are elderly to have a heart health check-up, especially as common signs and symptoms of heart disease, such as fatigue and shortness of breath, are common and may not immediately seem serious. Being aware of any changes in how we feel, especially as we age, is important.
When does heart disease start?
A build-up of cholesterol in our arteries (called atherosclerosis or ‘hardening of the arteries’) can begin in childhood and is the primary cause of coronary artery disease.2 The build-up, often called plaque, is made more likely by smoking, obesity, and a poor diet, as well as some other existing medical conditions.3,4 If these risk factors are not reversed early in life the potential to develop heart disease is significantly increased over time, and the impacts can remain.5
These impacts can be seen in former smokers who have an increased risk of developing heart disease for at least 15 years after their last cigarette.6 Childhood obesity is another predictor of heart disease in adulthood, causing atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, diabetes and other conditions that impact heart health.7
While we cannot turn back the clock and change decade-old behaviours, knowing that these factors can increase and accumulate our risk of heart disease highlights the importance of early investigation.
3 ways to investigate your heart health
There are several ways to look after your heart health with regular checks that help identify early warning signs.
- Heart Health Check8 – All Australians over the age of 45 (or over the age of 30 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples) can access a Heart Health Check with their GP once every 12 months. The 20-minute consultation involves gathering information about the patient’s health and risk factors for cardiovascular disease to assess if further intervention is needed. Prevention tips and resources are also provided. This service, which eligible patients can receive a Medicare rebate for, is a comprehensive approach so you should consider talking to your GP today about how to book your Heart Health Check.
- At-home blood pressure monitor – There is a link between high blood pressure and the risk of heart attack or stroke.9 As you age it may be beneficial to know what your usual blood pressure is so to identify any unusual spikes. Blood pressure monitors are available to buy from your local chemist and can be used easily at home. Monitoring in this way can also help alleviate stress-spikes that some people experience when having a blood pressure test at the GP, which can give unreliable data. Speak to your GP to see if you would benefit from this and get advice on the most reliable machines to buy.
- Self-monitoring – With symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breath being common in so many everyday ailments, it can be hard to know when to take these signs to the next level and see your doctor. Self-monitoring is an easy way to keep track of how you’re feeling day to day, especially if you’re noticing you’re more tired than usual or tasks you once found easy now leave you breathless. Jotting down short notes in a diary or in your phone calendar could identify if there is an ongoing change and will help your GP assess how long symptoms have been present.
If at any time you are experiencing any symptoms, call 000 and seek immediate medical assistance.
Your heart health checklist
Life gets busy and it can be hard to find the time to check in on your heart health as often as you should.
Use our heart health checklist to remind yourself how to look after your heart and when to see your doctor for additional help and information.
- Book a Heart Health Check with your GP every 12 months if you are 45 or over (35 for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander)
- Monitor any changes in your general health, such as feeling more tired than usual or any pain/discomfort in the chest, neck, jaw, and arms
- Exercise regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol use
- Eat a sensible moderate diet
Heart disease in Australia: Quick facts
- In 2021-2022 almost 600,000 adult Australians had coronary heart disease.
- One in nine Aussies over 75 years old were affected.1
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia, with 10% of all deaths being a result of poor cardiovascular health.10
- Men are more than twice as likely as women to be hospitalised with a heart attack.11
Find more information at Advara HeartCare on all things heart health.
Talk to your GP about local and national resources that can help you improve your heart health and help prevent heart disease.
Learn More: The different types of heart diseases
Related Article: The main causes of heart disease – and how to prevent it
This information is of a general nature. If you are concerned about your heart health, discuss this with your local doctor.