Is your heart in it? Women urged to take better care of their hearts

Most Australian women are unaware that heart disease is their biggest killer and they are more likely to die from a second heart attack than men.

This World Heart Day, Saturday 29 September, The George Institute for Global Health urges women to protect their heart health and know the risks of heart disease, especially those who have survived a heart attack.

Julie Redfern from The George Institute said there were some basic things women could do to look after their hearts, such as exercising regularly, eating less saturated fat and salt and not smoking.

"A simple thing like knowing the risks of heart disease and how to manage these can make all the difference to protecting your heart and saving your life," she said.

With the number of Australians dying from a repeat heart attack expected to increase by 40% in the next decade, she said there is an urgent need to find better ways to protect heart attack survivors.

"We want to do everything we can to prevent women from having a repeat heart but it is not as easy as it seems," she said.

"There is a gap in cardiac care between what happens in hospital and what happens after someone has a heart attack.

"With the aging population and without improving current cardiac rehabilitation practices, we will have a situation where more people are surviving their first heart attack, but are at much greater risk of having another one that is potentially fatal.

"A study we conducted found that GPs underestimate and undertreat women at high risk compared to their male counterparts, making it a priority to address this gap."

Julie Redfern said less than 30% of heart attack survivors took up cardiac rehabilitation and many did not take their medication regularly or adopt the necessary lifestyle changes to manage their recovery and heart health.

"We need an accessible and cohesive standardized program for all Australians to motivate heart attack survivors to be pro-active about their heart health and take up effective preventative strategies," she said.

As part of its cardiovascular research program, The George Institute is looking at ways to re-think and re-model current cardiac rehabilitation and prevention strategies, with a particular focus on e-health strategies such as text and web based tool to assist rural communities.

Most deaths from heart disease are preventable. Here are five things women can do to protect their hearts:

  • Eat a healthy diet, including 3-5 serves of fruit and vegetables a day
  • Be active. Even 30 minutes a day can make a difference.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Check your numbers regularly - blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels.
  • Know the warning signs of a heart attack and act quickly. The symptoms vary from women to men and from person to person. Sometimes these can be subtle and women tend to put off going to a doctor, putting their lives at risk.

For more information about World Heart Day and heart health tips visit