A survey by the Heath Foundation has revealed that a staggering 78% of Australian women are unaware that heart disease is their number one killer. The Heart Foundation launched the Go Red for Women campaign to ensure woman understood that heart disease was the number one killer for woman, most women mistakenly believe that breast cancer is the leading cause of death.
Certain perceptions surround heart disease, one of which is that woman believe it is a men's disease and do not understand that heart disease claims the lives of 30 Australia women every day.
The major risk factors are blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. Go Red for Women encourages women to talk to their GP about their risk and how to prevent Heart Disease.
The Heart Foundation have shared five healthy choices women can make to reduce their risk of heart disease:
1. Get regular checkups: on your next visit with your GP, ask for a heart disease riskassessment
2. Know your numbers: learn your blood pressure, cholesterol level and waistcircumference - and check these regularly
3. Be smoke free: kicking the habit is the single most important thing you can do to reduce your risk and it is never too late to benefit from giving up
4. Enjoy healthy eating: include a variety of foods from different food groups
5. Be active every day: regular, moderate physical activity is good for the heart. The Heart Foundation recommends at least 30 minutes or more on most or all days of the week.
We spoke to Kathryn Taranto who:
What was initially wrong with your heart?Kathryn Taranto
: I was initially diagnosed with a rapid heartbeat (Tachycardia) at around the age of five or six.
What was done to help you with this problem? Kathryn Taranto
: The problem was first treated with medication over a number of years but, by the time I was 15 or 16, the attacks became more severe and medication no longer worked. At the age of 17, I had a surgery that involved destroying part of the heart's electrical system and so a pacemaker was also implanted.
Have you had any bad repercussions because of this? Kathryn Taranto
: The operation cured the rapid heart rates but left me a total invalid instead. I struggled to do the everyday things and had to leave school when I could no longer walk from one classroom to the next.
I had a second surgery around 15 months later in which all the heart tissue that generates a natural heartbeat was removed; my pacemaker makes all my heartbeat decisions.
What have you been able to do, that doctors once said you wouldn't? Kathryn Taranto
: At the time of the second surgery, my doctors joked and said I'd never be running any marathons in the future. On a more serious note they said to not to expect any more than to be able to walk afterwards, but I was able to do beginner aerobic classes a few months after the surgery, and even walk/run marathons 20 years later.
How many marathons have you completed? Kathryn Taranto
: I've done three New York City Marathons, but my cardiologist has advised against doing marathons in the future
.so I now do half marathons instead.
How does it feel to be known as an 'inspirational speaker'? Kathryn Taranto
: If sharing my story helps just one other person who is faced with or has a loved one who is suffering from heart disease, then I'm happy to be called an inspirational speaker.
Your story touches a lot of hearts, how does this affect you? Kathryn Taranto
: I decided to share my story because I want to help raise awareness of heart disease. It was a bit nerve-wracking at first to open-up about something so personal but, although not everyone might be faced with getting a pacemaker, too many Australians are either being lost to or have lost a loved one to cardiovascular disease. It could happen to anyone at any time so, through the Go Red for Women campaign, I really hope my words help women to put heart disease on their health radar. I may never know that I've had that impact, but even the possibility makes me feel pretty good.
What does a typical day consist of? Kathryn Taranto
: In the lead-up to a half marathon, a typical day consists of getting up at 5am so I can get an early start at work, a 3km walk at lunchtime and a 10km training session after work. There would typically also be an appointment with any one of my medical team members (physio, podiatrist, massage therapist, exercise physiologist, GP or cardiologist); they're the ones who get me to the start-line.
Why have you got the nickname 'chooka'? Kathryn Taranto
: I ruffle feathers! If you saw my running style you wouldn't have to ask! I'm a battery hen! Just kidding....'Chook' (or 'Chooka') is a nickname the family GP gave me when I was just a baby. I was born six weeks premature and kept in a heated cot for a couple of months before I could be brought home from the hospital....so I was kinda "hatched", I guess. Coincidentally, a chicken's heart beats much faster than a human heart.
What support has the Heart Foundation provided you with? Kathryn Taranto
: The Heart Foundation has been very supportive of me and has worked with me to be able to tell my story to the greatest number of people, as well as providing a platform from which I might be able to make a positive difference to the lives of other Australian women.
It's such an honor to be a guest speaker for the Heart Foundation and to share my story at events such as Go Red for Women. After all, the Heart Foundation funded the research that resulted in Australia's first pacemaker implant in 1962, so this is a fantastic opportunity to give something back. Imagine what the world would be like without pacemakers; how many lives have been saved by these devices. It's only through the work the Heart Foundation has done and the research they have funded over the past 50 years, that I'm still here and living an extraordinary life despite having heart disease.Heart Foundation
: Australia's leading heart health charity, the Heart Foundation saves lives and improves health through funding world-class cardiovascular research, guidelines for health professionals, informing the public and assisting people with cardiovascular disease. The Heart Foundation relies on donations and gifts in wills to continue its lifesaving research, education and health promotion work. For further information visit www. heartfoundation.org.au
or call 1300 36 27 87.