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Walkers take health to heart

EASTERN Shore locals put on their walking shoes during National Heart Week to encourage people to visit their doctor for a Medicare-funded heart health check.

As part of an initiative spearheaded by the Heart Foundation, heart health checks have become a service that is subsided by the Australian Government as part of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).

After becoming accessible on 1 April, the checks allow people who have or are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease the opportunity to visit a GP to conduct a heart healt assessment.

The assessment is non-invasive and will involve the doctor examinging the risk factors of the patient that will increase the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke.

“The GP will check cholestoreol, blood pressure, family history and other factors such as whether they’re a smoker or whether they have diabetes,” Heart Foundation Tasmania chief executive officer Graeme Lynch said.

“Once the results come back, the GP can assess what is the risk of having a stroke or heart attck in the next five years.”

To raise awareness about the new heart check, members of the public gathered at Eastlands Shopping Centre to participate in organised walks around the Rosny Park area, hosted by local Heart Foundation walking coordinators.

Heart checks were also being conducted by a representative from Priceline Pharmacy and morning tea was provided for walkers.

Mr Lynch said the heart assessments would provide patients with a comprehenisve plan to improve their cardiovascular health.

“The GP will be able to either suggest behavioural modification such as joining a Heart Foundation walking group, or if the risk factors are very high, there may be some clinical interventions like treating blood pressure and heart rest rate,” he said.

“We believe over the next five years the heart health check could prevent close to 80,000 heart attacks and strokes.”

Mr Lynch encouraged all Tasmanians over the age of 45, or over the age of 30 for Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders, to see their GP and have their heart health checked.

“Nearly three quarters of Australians have two or three risk factors for heart disease and it is the biggest killer of all Tasmanians,” he said.

“Heart disease is not always obvious – having a heart attack could be your first sign.

“We’re not aware of what our blood pressure or cholesterol might be, so having a heart health check enables a conversation to start with your GP about how we might manage risk factors.

“Don’t wait for chest pain, it could be too late – get the vital tests you need by visiting your doctor for a heart health check.”

Heart attack survivor Denise Wierzeicar said her attack was sudden and unexpected.

“It makes sense to prevent rather than wait for an event to happen because no one ever knows when that might be,” she said.

“You don’t have to be an older person to have a heart attack – it can happen at any age.”

Ms Wierzeicar joined the Heart Foundation walking group from Eastlands to improve her heart health.

“It gets you outside, it gives your heart exercise, and you can meet new people and chat as you walk along,” she said.

National Heart Week (28 April – 4 May) is an opportunity for the public and healthcare professionals to start a conversation about heart health and the steps to reduce risk of heart disease.

For more information, visit heartfoundation.org.au/heartweek or phone the Heart Foundation Helpline on 13 11 12.

Caption: From left, Rebel Sports Eastlands employee Ali Blackwell, Heart Foundation Tasmania chief executive officer Graeme Lynch, heart attack survivor Denise Wierzeicar and Priceline pharmacist Fiona Heffernan conduct heart health checks.