Healthy Heart Program aims to strip heart disease of title of Australia’s number one killer

“Something in my head said ‘this is not normal.’ It was 5.30 in the morning and the hospital wouldn’t be busy; so I thought I’d call in and get checked. I just thought my blood pressure might be silly.” Stephen James’ decision to investigate what he assumed was just his blood pressure being “silly” proved to be a life saving one. A coronary angiogram revealed several blockages in Stephen’s heart. Three days later, Stephen underwent open heart surgery. “I have been told by my surgeons that I wouldn’t have been around for much longer. If I hadn’t gone to hospital, then in six or 12 months I would have had a massive heart attack and not survived," he said.

Despite significant advances in medicine and an increase in health awareness across Australia, heart disease remains Australia’s number one killer. For Australian’s like Stephen, the risk of having a secondary heart event persist for years; however, it is at its highest during the first six to twelve months after the initial heart attack.

Heart Support Australia has developed the Healthy Heart Program to reduce the risk of a secondary heart event in patients like Stephen.

Chair of Heart Support Australia, Alan Galbraith said, “The problems experienced by cardiac patients long exceed the prescribed six weeks of support typically provided to patients through our hospitals. The Baker Institute’s No Second Chances report, launched today at Parliament House, highlights that only 50% of patients who have suffered a cardiac event go on to receive any form of guideline based care and referral to cardiac rehabilitation, despite clear evidence of this being immensely beneficial to the patient.”

The Healthy Heart Program, which has been endorsed by the Australian College of Nursing, is comprised of eight modules that address modifiable risk factors including mental health, physical activity, weight management and smoking.

“The program has been designed to be tailored to the individual. Participants learn self-management skills that address the individual risks that affect them. While it was initially developed to improved the long term outcomes for patients like Stephen, the program can be personalised to help the cares of cardiac patients, family members and friends of a cardiac patient, people with a family history of heart disease of anyone interested in learning how to better manage their heart health,” said Mr Galbraith.

In line with Heart Support Australia’s mission, the program encourages participants to form long lasting friendships and interest groups that will continue to provide peer support, information and encouragement to those who take part in the program long after its cessation.

“Based on results we have seen globally from similar peer support based programs, we would expect to see significant improvements within individuals mental health, their general understanding of cardiac disease and improved understanding of risk factor management. We believe that in time this will translate to more lives saved and less money spent on Australian’s who have suffered a heart event,” said Mr Galbraith.

Heart Support Australia is the national body providing peer support, information and encouragement for the 4.2 Australians living with a cardiovascular condition. Heart Support Australia’s programs and services provide the physical, psychological and social support that people who have experienced a cardiac event will need to ensure improved health outcomes, quality of life and reduced risk of a secondary heart event.

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