Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Australia, yet many people don’t know the risk factors or how to respond. While some risks are out of your control, others are not – including whether you’re covered for all possibilities.
Around 54,000 Australians suffer a heart attack each year. That's one every ten minutes.
The best chance of surviving a heart attack is to recognise the warning signs and symptoms so you can seek help as soon as possible.
Being aware of the risk factors and taking steps to counteract them also reduces your chances of suffering a heart attack in the first place.
The prevalence of heart disease
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the common term for any disease of the heart and blood vessels. It includes a wide range of conditions including heart attacks, coronary heart disease, congenital heart disease, and stroke.
It's also the leading cause of death and disease in Australia.
In 2015, 45,392 (29%) of deaths had an underlying cause of cardiovascular disease.
Worryingly, 1.2 million Australians reported having cardiovascular conditions such as stroke or heart disease, and 430,000 indicated that they had experienced a heart attack at some point in their life.
How to reduce your risk
There are a range of risk factors which can make you more likely to experience CVD in your lifetime.
Some of these you cannot control, such as your age (older people are more likely to have CVD), family history and gender.
Many other risks are linked to biomedical factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity.
Studies have also shown that people with diabetes have twice the risk of developing CVD than the general population, and are ten times more likely to have a heart attack than people without diabetes.
However, many of the major risks of CVD are behavioural and within your control, including smoking, high consumption of alcohol, poor diet, and a lack of exercise.
By addressing these behavioural risk factors, people can reduce their risk of developing CVD or, if they already have it, reduce their risk of succumbing to a life-threatening CVD-related event.
There are also medical and surgical treatments available for CVD, from simple medications such as aspirin, to major interventions such as bypass surgery. As always however, prevention is better than the cure; you should see your GP for regular checkups.
How to survive an attack
A heart attack is one of the most serious results of CVD and is caused when blood supply to the heart becomes blocked, such as by a clot.
A lack of blood to the heart immediately reduces oxygenated blood supply around the body, and causes serious damage to the heart muscle.
Although this article does not offer medical advice, signs that you may be experiencing a heart attack include:
Chest pain, such as feeling like your chest is being squeezed or pressed
- Cold sweat
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling weak or light-headed
It’s important to note that, unlike in films, not everyone who has a heart attack experiences chest pain.
For some, the pain can be very mild, and for others they will not experience any pain at all. However, if other symptoms are present and severe, you should suspect a heart attack.
If you suspect that you, or someone you know, is having a heart attack, you should immediately dial triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.
Understanding the symptoms of a heart attack and acting fast can save your life so be sure to ask your GP for more information at your next regular checkup.
How to protect your family with Life Insurance
Unfortunately, statistics show that many Australians will die or experience significant illness as a result of CVD.
Life Insurance provides for your loved ones in the event of your death, or if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. It can allow your family to keep their home, provide for your children's education, and allow your partner to continue living the life you had planned together.
The Importance of Recovery Insurance
While Life Insurance will protect your family in the event of a serious heart attack or stroke, Recovery Insurance can give you financial freedom if you become critically ill and require extensive medical treatment to recover your health.
What many people don’t realise is that health insurance doesn’t cover the ongoing costs of treatment. A lump sum payment from your Recovery Insurance policy gives you choice and financial security in a challenging and stressful time.
It also allows you to access the best medical treatment available, and cut back on your work hours so you can concentrate on recovering quickly and getting back to doing the things you love.
This isn't medical advice. A GP or medical practitioner should be consulted if more information is required.