The Heart Foundation has just completed its annual Heart Week event. It’s an opportunity to shine a light on the prevalence of heart disease in the community and what can be done to reduce the risks and achieve a more successful recovery.
Part of the Heart Foundation’s mission is to educate the public and health professionals on what can be done to prevent heart disease and rehabilitate those who suffer from it. As an insurer that is interested in improved health outcomes we want to support this goal by sharing some insights that may helpful to you.
Just how big are the risks?
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major cause of death in Australia, with 43,603 deaths attributed to CVD in Australia in 2013. That’s 30% of all deaths, with one Australian every 12 minutes. It is estimated over 350,000 Australians have had a heart attack at some time in their lives.*
It’s not just men who are affected
While more focus may be given to men when discussing heart disease it is also an issue for women. It may come as a surprise to know that heart disease is the number one killer of Australian women and is four times more likely to be a cause of death than breast cancer.**
The good news is that a lot of these deaths are largely preventable and there is much that we can do to reduce our risks.
What are the causes?
The major risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess weight and obesity, physical inactivity, low fruit and vegetable intake, alcohol and smoking.
Nine in ten adult Australians have at least one risk factor for CVD and one in four have three or more risk factors.
What can you do about it?
Many of these risk factors relate to lifestyle, which means that it is possible to influence your risk of heart disease by adjusting to a healthier lifestyle. This includes:
- Eating a higher proportion of vegetables, whole grains, fruit, nuts, legumes and fish
- Making good fat choices, such as olive oil
- Choosing reduced full fat dairy products and eating less salt
- Regular physical activity, such as 2.5 to 5 hours of physical activity of moderate intensity per week
- Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week
- Sit less and walk more.
Be aware of symptoms
Although chest pain or discomfort are common symptoms of a heart attack, this is not universal and the symptoms may present in other areas of the body.
This includes pain, pressure, heaviness or tightness in areas such as the jaw, back, shoulder, neck and arms. The symptoms for men and women can vary and research has found that women are less likely to experience chest pain.
The critical message if you think you may be suffering heart problems is to act early. For more information on warning signs and what to do visit heartfoundation.org.au.
Protect yourself financially
One encouraging feature regarding heart disease is that survival chances are improving. In 2009, 63% of people were surviving heart attack, compared with a 45% survival rate in 1994.***
Many of those who survive go on to recover and have a normal life expectancy. While physical recovery is good news, surviving a heart attack may cause problems financially. A good recovery may depend on adjusting lifestyle, reducing working hours or lowering the stress of debt and expenses. All of these factors may require significant amounts of cash to make them possible.
This is where trauma cover can be so valuable. It can pay a lump sum benefit upon diagnosis that can allow you to make such lifestyle changes. If you want to know more, talk to your adviser about how trauma insurance can help you.
*** Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: Trends in Cardiovascular Disease 2012.