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Heart Attacks - Risks and Prevention

Wednesday, 02 April 2014
When asked what the leading cause of death in Australia is many people would assume something such as cancer. We are after all, a nation who enjoys nothing more than a day at the beach and some fun in the sun. So when told one Australian dies every 12 minutes from a heart attack you can imagine the resounding shock.  

Cardiovascular disease is a killer. It affects one in every six Australians, two out of every three families and in 2010 claimed the lives of over 21,700 Australians. It is the most expensive health care condition, costing an average of $5.4 billion a year, or 11% of total allocated expenditure.

So if cardiovascular disease is the Charles Manson of the heart world, why haven’t we been exposed to information campaigns such those used to prevent cancer? Why aren’t we being told of the risks and how we can prevent it?

To help better understand these questions Sonic HealthPlus Doctor Barry Kanagaiyan provides some medical insight into the condition.

“Fortunately, everyone can take simple steps to protect themselves and their loved ones from heart disease,” said Dr Kanagaiyan.

“First and foremost, you need to identify and recognise risk factors. These are the factors that make it more likely to develop heart disease and have a heart attack.

Risk factors you cannot change include your age (men over 45 and women over 55), having a family history and, or having a personal history of heart disease. Risk factors you can change include your weight, smoking, drinking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and some medications.

There are also a number of simple ways you can reduce the risk of having a heart attack. These include eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, not smoking and losing some of those extra kilos,” said Dr Kanagaiyan.

In addition to tracking your risk factors, it is equally important to keep an eye out for the warning signs if you are having a heart attack.

Dr Kanagaiyan says the most common warning signs include discomfort or pain in the centre of your chest, discomfort in your upper body, shortness of breath, nauseous, cold sweats and dizziness.

“If you feel you are having any of these warning signs, stop what you are doing, let someone know, call 000 and ask for an ambulance” he said.

To keep track of your risk factors and help prevent cardiovascular disease, visit your local GP or health professional.