Am I at risk?

Information and answers to common questions about heart health.

Every 11 minutes, one Australian will suffer a heart attack.  This is why you need to find out if you’re at risk of heart disease. Here are some common questions about heart health: 

What type of questions should I ask when I go for a heart health check?

There are no right or wrong questions to ask your doctor when it comes to your health, especially your heart health. If you’re not sure what to ask at your next appointment, here a few suggestions to help:

If I have a family history of heart disease, am I at greater risk?

What should my blood pressure be?

How often should I get my blood pressure checked?

What are some changes I can make to lower my blood pressure?

What should my cholesterol levels be?

How often should I get my cholesterol checked?

What are some changes I can make to reduce my total cholesterol?

What are some lifestyle changes I can make to maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels?

How much physical activity should I be doing?

What can I do to achieve a healthy weight?

Should I stop smoking?

Do I need to be referred to a specialist health professional, such as a cardiologist or dietitian?  

What are the risk factors of heart disease?

There are several different risk factors when it comes to heart disease. Some you have the power to change and some you don’t. Two things that can’t be changed are:

  • Age – as you get older your risk of heart disease increases. Due to this, you should visit your doctor for regular heart health screenings.
  • Family history – If you have a close family member who has been affected by heart disease, then your risk is increased.

 However, there are many risk factors that are in your control to change. These can include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood sugars
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Depression

Lifestyle risk factors that can increase your risk of heart disease can also include:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or inactive
  • Unhealthy diet

According to Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute Heart Health Check data, 1 in 3 people have one or more modifiable risk factors of heart disease – which include high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

It’s important to know your numbers. Visit your local doctor to find out if you’re at risk. 

What are the signs of a heart attack?

Heart attack symptoms vary for each person and can be different for men and women. Some people can experience mild pain or no warning signs at all, while others experience serious symptoms days or even weeks in advance. Common heart attack symptoms can include:

  • Pressure, tightness or pain in the chest and arms which may spread to the neck, jaw or back
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Cold sweat
  • Fatigue
  • Light-headedness or sudden dizziness

These warning signs can differ in women. Common symptoms for women may include:

  • Nausea of vomiting
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Cold seats
  • Pressure in upper back
  • Light-headedness
  • Dizziness 

If you experience any of the above symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention. 

Where can I go for a heart health check?

A routine heart health check can be undertaken as part of a normal check up with your regular doctor or health practitioner. 

I’m a woman, do I still need to have a heart health check?

  • Three times more women will die of heart disease than breast cancer
  • 50 Australian women have a heart attack every day
  • In Australia, 24 women die every day of heart disease

Unfortunately, too often, heart disease is perceived as a common illness among middle-aged men. However, heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. The risk of heart problems increases significantly once women reach menopause.

  There tends to be a common misconception when it comes to the symptoms associated with heart disease in women. These symptoms can vary to those in men, so it’s important that women take the steps to understand the symptoms unique to them. Only one in three women will experience ‘typical’ heart attack symptoms such as chest pain. To find out about women and heart disease, click here.

What happens next if I’m diagnosed with a heart condition?

If you are diagnosed with a heart condition, next steps will be very dependent on the type of heart problem you have. You will most likely be instructed to:

  • Regularly visit your doctor
  • Be referred to a cardiologist or a cardiac rehabilitation program
  • Be given medication
  • Make positive lifestyle changes to maintain heart health long term 
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