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Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin Alcohol and other drugs knowledge centre Yarning Places

Heart care a lifelong affair

Date posted: 17 May 2012

It is the organ we all take for granted, giving it hardly a second thought until we reach our senior years. But looking after your heart should be a lifelong affair, according to the Heart Foundation's Clinical Issues National Director Robert Grenfell.

'If you don't look after yourself in your younger years you are not necessarily going to be fit and strong in your later years. You might find yourself to be housebound simply because you didn't look after your body and your heart can't do its job properly.' he said.  While it was true older people were more likely to suffer heart disease, younger people were not immune. Dr Grenfell said a growing number of people aged under 55 were being diagnosed with early heart disease.  There were also other heart conditions that could strike at younger ages including cardiomyopathy, which is a disease of the heart muscle and sudden arrhythmia death syndrome, a genetic disorder that can affect those aged under 35 without warning.  'We are seeing more people with heart disease at younger ages with some of the reasons being, diets contain more saturated fats and people are less physically active.' he said.  'Some subsets of the population suffer this more than others. The Indigenous (heart disease) rate sometimes occurs 20 years earlier than in non-Indigenous people, but there are also some migrant populations that are problematic, particularly those from the Indian subcontinent.'

Cardiologist and Head of Research at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Peter Thompson said deaths due to heart disease had declined in the past 30 years, due largely to factors including better cholesterol and blood pressure control and a reduction in smoking rates.  'But the looming worry is the obesity epidemic and there is a worry among the heart experts that the benefits in the last 30 years could potentially be lost.' Professor Thompson said.

Dr Grenfell said many factors were at play in determining risk. 'Our hearts are a bit like the cogs inside an old watch which you have to wind up, some of them are bigger than others: family history is a big cog, smoking is a big cog, overweight is a smaller one and physical activity is about the same size and then we go down to blood pressure and cholesterol levels. All these things work together with different degrees of impact.' he said.

Source: The West Australian


Last updated: 8 June 2012
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