ACT News

Time to get heart smart

When Pam Owen felt pressure in her chest and pain in her left arm as she going to sleep one night, she didn't possibly think it could be a heart attack. 

She rated the pain at about a five out of 10. 

''I thought something was wrong, but I wasn't sure what it was,'' the active 59-year-old from Hackett said.

Although the pain wasn't excruciating, the discomfort didn't let up. But after about 90 minutes, Ms Owen managed to get to sleep. 

The next morning, the pressure in her chest was gone but the pain in her arm was still there.

''I went to work because I kept thinking 'no, this can't be me'. I'm someone who used to run four times a week, I was a kayaker and if I wasn't running, I was walking. I'm not overweight and am a fairly positive, active person,'' she said. 

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But as her work day progressed, the pain in her arm persisted. Eventually she decided to drive herself to the emergency department. 

Doctors deduced from her blood tests that Ms Owen had suffered a heart attack. 

''I burst into tears because I could not believe it. I was in disbelief because the one thing I've prided myself on is looking after myself,'' she said. 

''It was really left-field – I don't have a family history, I don't have cholesterol problems, don't have blood pressure problems. I don't smoke.'' 

Ms Owen said doctors told her stress could have been a contributing factor.

It comes as figures reveal half of all people who suffer a heart attack die before reaching hospital. The revelation has prompted calls for Canberrans to have their heart health checked by their family doctor. 

The heart health message from the Australian Medical Foundation and the Heart Foundation comes during Family Doctor Week. 

AMA president Associate Professor Brian Owler said cardiovascular disease was Australia's leading cause of death, claiming one life every 12 minutes. 

Heart Foundation ACT chief executive Tony Stubbs said heart disease was often silent, with no warning signs before a devastating heart attack. 

''Half of the people who suffer a heart attack die before they get to hospital. This is why you need to find out if you are at risk,'' he said.

''You can be fit, well and active with a healthy weight and no symptoms, but still be at risk from high blood pressure or cholesterol caused by genetic factors totally out of your control.

''The message is clear: a heart health check is the best way to find out your risk of heart disease as you certainly don’t want a heart attack to be the first sign that something is wrong.''

Associate Professor Owler said

people who had high cholesterol or blood pressure, an unhealthy diet, diabetes and especially smokers were at increased risk of dying from heart disease.

Ms Owen encouraged everyone to have regular heart health checks.

''I think part of it is that you just don't think it [a heart attack] will happen to you,'' she said.

''I think as women, we're too busy sometimes to think 'well, I need to take some time out to look into this'.

''I think we need to be more educated about what heart health is about and not to think it won't happen to us.'' 

Coronary heart disease accounts for 15 per cent of all deaths in Australia. 

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