Today marks the beginning of the Heart Foundation’s “Making the Invisible Visible” campaign, raising awareness about heart disease.
Heart disease, particularly in women, is often a seemingly invisible condition. The impact however can be significant and devastating.
While women may be more aware of the need to look after their health when it comes to sexual health or breast cancer screenings, the reality is that heart disease is the biggest killer of women around the world. Every hour of every day, an Australia woman dies of heart disease. That is 24 women every day. In fact, women are three times more like to die of heart disease than breast cancer. In New Zealand, a woman is five times more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer.
Ms Julie Anne Mitchell, Heart Foundation National Spokesperson on Women’s Health says that despite these numbers, heart disease remains gravely misunderstood. “There are several contributors to heart disease risk and , for the most part, many of these can be controlled through lifestyle, however one risk factor you can’t change is your family history.”
People with a mother, father or sibling who has heart disease are at an increased risk of having a heart event. While the figures may be confronting, we are being encouraged not to ignore our family history but rather get ourselves checked before it is too late.
“Whilst having heart disease in the family doesn’t automatically predispose you, it certainly does increase your risk,” explains Mitchell. “Instead of fearing your family history, consider it an ace up your sleeve. You know the cards you’ve been dealt so give yourself the best fighting change against heart disease by eating well, keeping active and managing your blood pressure and cholesterol.
What can you do?
There are many simple ways you can help fight heart disease and make this invisible condition visible:
- See your GP for a heart check – this is particularly important if you have a known family history of heart disease
- Learn the warning signs of a heart attack – they can differ between men and women. The Heart Foundation has a list of symptoms here
- Draw a heart somewhere visible on your body and share it on social media with the #womenshearts
- Donate online at invisiblevisible.org.au
- Encourage others to do the same – you may just save someone’s life.