Time to check in on our heart health 

Did you know heart disease and mental health are closely linked? Depression can be as big a risk factor for coronary heart disease as smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. While the experience of poor heart health can also impact on mood, and lead to experiences of depression.

While the two are linked, it's important to remember there are many lifestyle and genetic factors which also play a role, and the experience of one might not necessarily lead to the other. There are also lots of things you can do to check in on your heart health, including having a Heart Health Check. 

According to the Heart Foundation, in 2020 there was a drop in the number of preventative health assessments - especially for the types of checks that can't be done over by Telehealth, such as Heart Health Checks.  

This week, 3 to 7 May, is Heart Week, and after the disruption of COVID-19, thus year's focus is all about getting back into the routine of preventative health check ups. 1.4 million Australians have a high chance of having a heart attack in the next five years, but may not know they're at risk.  

During Heart Week health professionals are being encouraged to talk to patients about their heart health, follow up with at risk people, and support people to better understand their risk of developing heart disease and how they can lower that risk. If you put off a Heart Health Check last year, now is a great time to book in.  

The heart is a vital organ responsible for pumping blood in our bodies. There are many different conditions which affect the heart, from an abnormal heart rhythm, known as arrhythmias, to coronary heart disease which can restrict the flow of blood to the heart, causing angina or a heart attack.  

If you are over 45, or 30 and over if you're of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, you are eligible for an annual Medicare check. Your doctor or nurse will help you understand risk factors and estimate your risk for a heart attack or stroke over the next five years. After your Heart Health Assessment they will be able to help you access any support you may need.  

While some heart health issues may be genetic, there are also a lot of lifestyle factors which can help us keep our hearts healthy, including looking after our mental health. Exercising regularly and enjoying healthy food is recommended for people looking after both their mental and heart health. Reducing alcohol, cutting back or quitting smoking, and practising relaxation techniques are also useful.  

So this Heart Week, make sure to book a Heart Health Assessment. Find out more at the Heart Foundation website.